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Fun food for the Fourth. July 2, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. The Fourth of July is coming, and that means picnics, grilling, food, and plenty of it! Do you know what you’re going to make? Potato salad, egg salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw? Maybe some pimiento cheese spread, refreshing gazpacho, or a big salad? How about a yummy summer squash casserole or crock of mac’n’cheese or a big vat of quick, crunchy hot-sweet refrigerator pickles?

Over the years we’ve been writing Poor Richard’s Almanac, I’ve posted a wealth of summertime recipes. We love them, and I think you will, too. So I’m going to do a post roundup here so you can find them. Just search the post title in our search bar at upper right. (Mind you, as I discovered, even if you type in the exact title, you may hit a few other posts before you get to the right one. But no worries—you can read the other posts and find even more great recipes, or just skip down to the one you’re looking for.)

I couldn’t decided how to organize this post—by type of food, or by post title with recipes listed for each post—so I’m going to do it both ways. That way, you can check out a post’s contents and see which ones appeal most to you, or look for a food (such as deviled eggs) and then see which posts have recipes for it. Either way, enjoy!

Let’s start with the posts themselves:

Perfect picnic fare: Silence’s Refrigerator Pickles, Caprese Salad, Quick Coleslaw, Deviled Blue Cheese Eggs

Time for potato salad: Mr. Hays’s Baked Potato Salad, Penn State’s American Flag Potato Salad, Janice Lichtenwalner Wetzel’s Favorite Potato Salad, Betty Lichtenwalner’s German Potato Salad, Mama Dip’s Southern-Style Potato Salad, Indian Potato Salad a la Silence

Silence makes coleslaw: Silence’s Green and Gold Slaw, Coleslaw with Cilantro and Scallions

Some eggcellent picnic fare: Silence’s Bedeviled Eggs, Delilah’s Egg Salad, Chard Quiche, Potato and Sugar Snap Salad, Veggies and Dips

Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread: Mr. Hays’s Baked Potato Salad, Alice’s Primo Pimiento Cheese Spread, Silence’s Hot Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Some celebratory salads: Silence’s Red, White and Blue Salad, Silence’s Simple Greek Salad, ‘Mater Madness

Super summer squash recipes: Silence’s Super Squash Casserole

The ultimate mac’n’cheese: Delilah’s Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

A gazpacho rainbow: Silence’s Think Pink Gazpacho, White Gazpacho, Southwestern Yellow Gazpacho, Green Tomatillo Gazpacho, Red Garden Gazpacho, Red Bread Gazpacho with Avocado Salsa

Okay, let’s start again and list ’em by category:

Potato salad: Time for potato salad; Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread; Some eggcellent picnic fare

Deviled eggs: Perfect picnic fare; Some eggcellent picnic fare

Coleslaw: Perfect picnic fare; Silence makes coleslaw

Egg salad: Some eggcellent picnic fare

Veggies and dips: Some eggcellent picnic fare

Pimiento cheese: Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread 

Refrigerator pickles: Perfect picnic fare; Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread

Salads (other than coleslaw and potato and egg salad): Perfect picnic fare; Some celebratory salads

Summer squash casserole: Super summer squash recipes

Macaroni and cheese: The ultimate mac’n’cheese

Gazpacho: A gazpacho rainbow

You’ll find a few recipe repeats as you look through these posts, since some recipes are so good and so appropriate I wanted to make sure they were available during picnic season. I know you’re going to love them! And please, share your Fourth of July favorites with us.

             ‘Til next time,



Time for potato salad. July 1, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s summer picnic time, and for lots of us, that means it’s time for potato salad, deviled eggs, homemade pimiento cheese spread (it’s easy and so much better than storebought), and lots of hummus for sandwiches and dipping (ditto). But today, let’s focus on that potato salad.

Potato salads generally come in two styles: cold, with a mayonnaise-based dressing, or warm to hot, typically with an oil (or bacon grease) and vinegar dressing. They’re generally made with smooth-fleshed “new” or boiling potatoes or fingerling potatoes rather than fluffy, flaky baking or mashing potatoes. The potatoes are usually boiled whole, then cooled, often peeled, and cut into chunks before combining with the other salad ingredients. These can include sliced celery, diced onion, sliced scallions (green onions), shredded carrot, and/or diced red, orange, green and/or yellow bell pepper for flavor, crunch and color; sliced or chopped hard-boiled egg for color and protein; crumbled bacon; and yellow mustard for color and bite. But rules are made to be broken, and none of these guidelines are ironclad, as we’re about to see.

But first, let’s take a minute to talk about food safety. Potato salad is notorious for causing salmonella poisoning when left out for extended periods on a hot picnic table. Gastric distress is never entertaining, but hot summer picnics can be especially prone to cause them, and July Fourth picnics are known for being both super-hot and super-long. (President Zachary Taylor died in office in 1850 of food poisoning after attending a July 4 picnic and eating a dish of cherries in milk.) Most people point to the mayonnaise and/or eggs in potato salad as the culprit, but I recently read that it’s more likely to be bacteria-laden soil clinging to the potatoes themselves when they’re prepared.

Whatever the case, use the sense God gave you and take appropriate precautions: Scrub potatoes thoroughly before you cook them, and rinse them after cooking and before chopping. Never use a cutting board to cut potatoes—or any other vegetable or other type of food, such as cheese or bread—that’s been used to cut meat. If your potato salad is to be served hot, keep it hot (see the slow-cooker recipe below); if it’s served cold, keep smaller containers on ice in your cooler and bring one out as needed, rather than setting out one huge bowl to fester in the hot sun. Much as I hate wasting food, this is one instance when I’d toss the contents of an opened container that had sat out in the heat after the picnic if it hasn’t all been eaten (not a worry if you try any of these recipes!), rather than trying to save it to eat later—another reason why bringing multiple small containers is a better idea.

Now that you’ve brushed up your food safety skills, let’s move on to the recipes themselves. Our own go-to recipe was developed by 90-year-old family patriarch and enthusiastic cook George Hays, and it’s still our favorite. Mr. Hays defies conventional wisdom and puts baking potatoes in his salad, and I can attest to how delicious it is. Try it and see for yourself!

           Mr. Hays’s Baked Potato Salad

3 pounds russet potatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 T chopped parsley leaves 

1 t salt

1 t fresh-ground pepper

1 cup (about 1 stalk) chopped celery

4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper

1 cup (1 medium) finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup each chopped sweet and dill pickles

3/4 cup mayonnaise (Hellman’s, or try Vegenaise grapeseed oil mayo)

Bring the potatoes and a teaspoon of salt to a boil over high heat until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and gently rub off the skins, using a paper towel, while the potatoes are still warm. Chop the potatoes into 1-inch chunks and toss with the cider vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir in the celery, red bell pepper, onion and pickles. Fold in the eggs and mayonnaise. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours or overnight. (Sadly, there are never any survivors when we make this!)

Just yesterday, I found some great recipes in our local paper, the Allentown PA Morning Call, in an article by Diane Stoneback called “Add a Spark to Holiday Gatherings.” (Read the full story and check out all the recipes for yourself at www.themorningcall.com.) Diane had the brilliant idea to interview area potato farmers and ask for their favorite recipes, and she came up with some real winners. I was especially intrigued by William Lamont of Penn State’s patriotic potato salad, which is made from red-, white-, and blue-fleshed potatoes. The Lichtenwalner family has grown potatoes in the Lehigh Valley for three generations, and mother (Betty Lichtenwalner) and daughter (Janice Lichtenwalner Wetzel) have the potato salad recipes to prove it. Pick your favorite or try all three!

           Penn State’s American Flag Potato Salad

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 lbs. new potatoes (red, white and blue)

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced

2 medium red bell peppers, diced small

1 bunch scallions (green onions), thinly sliced

Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil. Add the garlic and whisk again. Let stand for one hour for flavors to develop. Boil the potatoes with skins on until tender but slightly firm. Drain them and let cool long enough to handle. Peel and cut into 1-inch dice. Transfer them to the vinaigrette, toss and let sit until the potatoes have cooled. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss again. Let sit for at least 2 hours. Serve or refrigerate.

Janice Lichtenwalner Wetzel’s potato salad uses yellow mustard instead of vinegar to give the dish some bite, as well as shredded carrot to warm up the color. My newest copy of Cook’s Country, my favorite cooking magazine, features a taste-test comparison of various brands of yellow mustard. To the surprise of the Cook’s Country crew, Annie’s Naturals Organic Yellow Mustard took the top spot, beating out six other contenders, including Gulden’s (the #2 choice) and French’s (#3). Keep this in mind next tiem you’re mustard-shopping!

              Janice Lichtenwalner Wetzel’s Favorite Potato Salad

2 quarts of potatoes

1-1 1/2 stalks celery, diced

1/2-3/4 carrot, shredded

1/2-1 mild onion, diced

4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

3/4-1 cup Miracle Whip [No! Don’t do that to the poor salad! Please use Hellman’s mayo instead!!!—Silence]

1-2 T yellow mustard

Fill 2-quart saucepan with new potatoes; smaller potatoes are better. Quarter or halve them for uniform size for cooking. Do not peel. Add water and boil until soft but not mushy. While warm, peel and dice potatoes. Add celery, carrot, onion, eggs, salt and pepper and stir gently. Start by adding the smaller amounts of [mayonnaise] and mustard.. Stir and taste. Add additional [mayo] and mustard to your taste. Sometimes, you’ll need more or less dressing on the potatoes because some are drier in texture and will soak up more dressing.

Janice’s mom, Betty Lichtenwalner, makes a classic hot German-style potato salad. She keeps it nice and hot for picnics by spooning it into a slow-cooker and taking it along to the picnic site, then plugging it in. If there are no electric outlets at your picnic site, Mrs. Lichtenwalner says you can chill the salad and serve it cold. But I think that would be a shame!

              Betty Lichtenwalner’s German Potato Salad

2 1/2 to 3 lbs. potatoes

1 medium onion, diced

1 stalk celery and leaves, diced

8-10 slices bacon, cooked and diced, reserving drippings

chopped parsley

1/2 cup vinegar or more to taste

2 T water

1/4 cup sugar

2-3 T olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cook small potatoes and peel while hot. Slice into a large bowl. Add diced onion and celery. Cook bacon until crisp, remove strips from drippings in frying pan. Add diced bacon and chopped parsley to potato bowl. To the bacon drippings in the pan, add vinegar, water, sugar and olive oil. Cook until the dressing is warm and sugar has dissolved. Pour over potatoes. Mix gently. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm.

Moving right along, I wanted to check out recipes for Southern-style potato salad, an Indian-spiced potato salad, and a “this will knock your socks off” potato salad. Sure enough, I found a classic Southern-style recipe in Mama Dip’s Kitchen by Mildred Council (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). I’d wondered where those celery seeds had gone!

             Mama Dip’s Southern-Style Potato Salad

2 1/2 lbs. new potatoes, all the same size, washed but unpeeled

1 t salt

1 t celery seed or 1/2 cup chopped celery

3 hard-boiled eggs, grated

1 cup sweet pickle relish

1 medium (4-oz.) jar pimientos, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 t prepared mustard

1/4 cup chopped spring onion (scallion), optional

Put the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them and cook until tender, about 35 minutes or less, according to size. Drain off the hot water and pour in cold water to cool the potatoes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and dice the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Let’s take a peek at that knock-your-socks-off potato salad. I just knew Chef Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Cooking (Da Capo Press, 2009), wouldn’t let me down. I can’t share the recipe because the publishers forbid any type of content reproduction (sigh), but I can tell you what Chef Bryant does: He roasts chunked red-skinned new potatoes (after tossing them with extra-virgin olive oil) and diced red bell peppers, then combines them with a pesto made from parsley, roasted pine nuts, garlic, white or yellow miso, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt, adds sea salt and fresh-ground white pepper to taste, and serves his Roasted Red Potato Salad with Parsley-Pine Nut Pesto at room temperature.  Check out Vegan Soul Kitchen at your bookstore or library; the recipe is on pages 66-67.

Another gourmet version, from cookbook author Rick Rodgers, appears on page 84 of the July 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. This version, Potato Salad with Pancetta, Rosemary, and Lemon, uses Yukon Gold potatoes, finely grated lemon peel and juice instead of vinegar, olive oil, garlic, finely sliced celery, fresh minced rosemary, and salt and pepper, topping the salad just before serving with chopped baked pancetta (Italian bacon) and chopped fresh parsley. Head over to the Bon Appetit website (www.bonappetit.com) and search for “potato salad slideshow” to find plenty of other intriguing variations.

But what about that Indian-spiced potato salad I was hoping for? If you Google “Indian potato salad,” you’ll find plenty of intriguing recipes. But I wanted a potato salad without mayonnaise—not something I think of as Indian!—or tomatoes, and that was served warm or hot. Maybe more like the filling of a potato-and-pea samosa with a warm yogurt sauce that just coated the potatoes. Then there was the crunch issue. I still crave crunch in my potato salad. One recipe approached this issue very innovatively, by adding cashews to the potatoes. I’m sort of fascinated by this, since I think the flavor of roasted, salted cashews would really complement the potatoes. Hmmm… However, for a first try, this is what I’m going to do:

           Indian Potato Salad a la Silence

14-20 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, skins on

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, or 1015 type), diced

2 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and minced

1 small green chile (chilli), such as a Thai chile, seeded and minced

4 fresh curry leaves, chopped

handful (about 1/4 cup) golden raisins

1 cup plain yogurt

1 T black mustardseeds

1 T whole cumin seeds

1 t turmeric

1 t chaat or garam masala, or more to taste

extra-virgin olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1 cup)

salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) to taste

Chipotle chile powder and/or fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a heavy pot or Dutch oven until tender, drain, and quarter (if small) or cut into 1-inch chunks. Return to the pot (off the heat) and cover. Add mustardseeds, cumin, garlic, chile, turmeric, curry leaves, and chaat or garam masala to hot oil or ghee in a pan. When mustardseeds pop, add onion. Reduce heat to a simmer and add raisins and enough of the yogurt to cover all ingredients thoroughly—at least 2/3 cup. Allow sauce to thicken, stirring, adding more yogurt as necessary. When sauce is thick, add the potatoes, salt, and chipotle chili powder and/or pepper, stirring gently to blend. The potatoes should be thickly coated but not dripping sauce. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve hot or warm with a side of thick-sliced ripe heirloom tomatoes that have been topped with salt, pepper, and a spoonful of chopped cilantro.

Okay, that’s enough about potato salad from me. What’s your favorite potato salad recipe?

            ‘Til next time,