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Spring is officially here.  Time for fresh potatoes, crisp peas, and tender greens.  This dish celebrates them all.  With no resemblance to its more traditional mayo-based cousin, this potato salad is fresh and crisp with a delicate balance between marinated potatoes, plump peas, crunchy toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula.  The whole lot is tossed in a simple mustard vinaigrette to make an uncomplicated, appetizing side dish for any spring meal.

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Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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The first time I ate this rice was at a park potluck picnic.  A number of families gathered with our very small children trying to eek out some semblance of a dinner party  while our children ran wild over, under, and around the play structure.  It truly is the perfect potluck dish- full of interesting flavors and textures, stays well at room temperature, and is quite easy to whip up in advance.  Since that night, this dish has become my secret weapon.  It starred at not one, but three baby showers that I threw over the last few years, pairing beautifully with an Asian chicken salad.  It has also been a hit at multiple potlucks.

Curried Mango Rice with Cashews could not be easier to make.  Cook up some brown rice and let it cool.  Mix together a dressing with curry paste and lime juice.  Then toss it all together with diced mango, toasted cashews, and crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds).  Since the dressing is not cooked, it is important to use curry paste, instead of dry curry.  The paste has been cooked a bit in oil in advance.  Regarding the mango, this time of year it is easy to find fresh mangos in the market, but to save time or make this out of season, look for mango chunks in the freezer section.  We buy them at Trader Joe’s to make in this rice and add to smoothies or oatmeal.

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Curried Cauliflower Pickles

January 10, 2012

Wandering through the produce market, it is easy to become entranced.  I most recently succumbed to cauliflower.  The big snowy globes of pure veggie power were calling my name.  They may just be the most versatile winter vegetable, ready to adapt to any flavor profile or dish in which they are called to serve. I filled my basket with four huge heads and began dreaming of the possibilities.  Two heads went straight into a double-batch of pickles.

Curried Cauliflower Pickles are a crunchy, intensely flavored Indian condiment.  Serve them on the side of any Indian-inspired dish or nibble on them as an appetizer.  They are not too bad straight from the jar either.  Awaken the flavors by toasting the spices in a dry pan before adding them to the jars.  The cauliflower, ginger, and garlic all pack into the jars while raw.  After pouring the boiled brine into the jar, submerge the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the jars.  In this time the cauliflower cooks to a perfect tenderness.  While the pickles are ready to eat in a week, they will continue to become more flavorful with time.  Shake the jars periodically to distribute the spices that have settled to the bottom.

T, my good friend and canning comrade, turned me on to this recipe from Alton Brown.  The original recipe did not give directions for how to can the pickles, so I cross-referenced with my other canning materials to determine the processing time.  I altered the spices a bit to suit my taste.  The curry is fairly mild.  Increase the amount of spice if you want more intensity.  Adding some chile flakes or hot peppers would be a nice touch as well.

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The holidays are upon us.  Anticipating a busy couple of weeks, we have transformed our home into a full-fledged  Christmas scene.  The tree is up, Santa Lucia is perched on the buffet, and the winter mugs in the morning coffee rotation.  While trying to convince the over-eager children that it is too early to start hanging ornaments on the advent calendar (whose idea was it anyway to decorate for Christmas in November?), we have been brainstorming ideas for edible holiday gifts.

I love making edible gifts for just about any occasion. Cooking for others is a way to treat those we appreciate with a delicious treat and share a bit of ourselves in the process.  It is best to plan ahead and start cooking early so that the making and giving does not become a stressful burden.  Riding the food hangover following Thanksgiving, our first foodie gift to make was Cranberry Cashew Granola Bars.

These granola bars are just sweet enough to count as a treat, but full of wholesome ingredients so they are also right at home in your little one’s school lunch bag.  The bars hold together pretty well, better than other granola bars I have tried.  Any crumbly bits taste tremendous sprinkled atop yogurt and fruit for breakfast.  Feel free to change up the types of nuts and dried fruit, just be sure to use equal quantities.  If you are using roasted nuts or toasted wheat germ, do not toast them again in the oven, instead add those items to the bowl with the cranberries.

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Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin

November 21, 2011

Sweet potatoes are not very popular at my family Thanksgiving gathering.  There are a few of us that enjoy them, but by and large they are passed around the table and politely declined.  Even I, a professed yam lover, took years to warm to this tuber.  It was not until I had them roasted and unsweetened for the first time that I took a liking to them.  I think the added sugar is what gives sweet potatoes a bad name in some circles.  If you love those super-sweet marshmallow-covered casseroles, then more power to you, but I cannot stand them.  In my opinion, the key to a delicious sweet potato dish is to let the sweetness of the potato itself shine through and season it in a savory way instead.

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Super Tasty Home Fries

November 14, 2011

Home-fried potatoes seems so simple, yet for years they eluded me.  The challenge lies in achieving a crispy browned exterior on the potato without having to use copious amounts of oil.  Starting with raw potatoes, I always found that the outside browned before the inside could cook through.  Since I always used oil rather judiciously, the potatoes would stick to the pan and we would miss out on the flavorful, crispy skin.  After much trial and error, I developed this recipe which results in perfectly seasoned potatoes with just the right amount of crunch, all with only a little bit of oil.

Super Tasty Home Fries start with cooked potato.  You can either boil them briefly or use leftover baked potato.  Either work well.  I used russet potatoes for the picture, but really any type of potato works well. The dish begins on the stove-top and finishes in the oven.  It works best with a cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will work.  In a pinch, you can spread out the potatoes on a baking sheet.  Saute the onion with the spices, then add the potato and toss in the oven.  For a cheesy touch, melt cheddar over the top of the potatoes in the final minutes.  These home fries are a staple at our house.  They really are super tasty!

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