Eating the Blues Away

At my advanced age, I honestly didn’t think it was possible.tater salad collageI’m talking about one of my very favorite topics of conversation, and my very favorite food group; potato salad.

On the way home after a doctor’s appointment with Petey today, we stopped at Fresh Market.  I had gotten an email about a New York Strip sale for $5 a pound (Don’t grab your car keys, shockingly I was confused.  It wasn’t at Fresh Market, and it wasn’t New York Strip—being my spouse is one never-ending adventure.)

But as I always do on any visits to Fresh Market, I check out my two favorite departments; the bakery and the prepared foods.As is the delightful norm, the bakery was full of freshly baked delicious-looking, potentially jean-busting breads and desserts.

Dominating each store like the main square in a medieval town is the large, four-sided prepared food department.  It contains everything from sushi to ribs.  And then there are the salads.  There are different chicken salads, maybe five pasta salads, a really creamy macaroni and cheese, and salads of the spud variety.

Normally, Fresh Market has two or three, with flavors like loaded baked potato, sour cream, and egg or sometimes, herb.  At one time or another I’ve taken them all home.  And I’ve enjoyed them.Buuuut…

Today in the case was a potato salad which not only had I not seen or tasted, this was a version of which I’ve never heard or even thought about.  And, let me be clear, I spend a lot of time thinking about potato salad.

And I mean a lot of time.  Like an almost not quite right in the head amount of time.  So, up until the other day I thought that when it came to potato salad, there was nothing new under the sun.

Fresh Market turned my potato salad world on its head with…Blue cheese.

It was really all about the dressing.  This was a relatively common mayo/sour cream version.  But then those deli mad scientists went and added crumbles of a mild blue.

Red and Blue Potato Saladred and blue potato salad

3 pounds small red potatoes, left unpeeled and cut into bite-size chunks

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

½ red onion, diced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

Dressing:red and blue dressing1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch of onion powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Salt & pepper

Cook potatoes in very heavily salted water until fork-tender.  Drain and let cool completely.

90 minutes before service, make dressing: Whisk together first six ingredients.  Gently fold in cheese.  Season with care because blue cheese is salty.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour. 

Place cooled spuds, celery, onion, salt and pepper into large bowl.  Drizzle first tablespoon vegetable oil over veg and toss to coat.  After dressing has been refrigerated for an hour, stir into potatoes until it’s a bit wetter than you want for finished salad (the taters will absorb some dressing).  Cover, and let sit unrefrigerated for 30 minutes.

Right before service, drizzle salad with the final tablespoon of oil and fold in lightly so that the salad has a slightly glossy look.Serves 6-8.

At Fresh Market, I bought a ½ pound of the salad for the sole purpose of reverse engineering and getting the recipe to pass along to you, Gentle Reader.

Not really.  I mean yeah, I thought about you and getting the recipe, but mainly I wanted some to take home and devour in private.

That would be a sheepish grin…

Thanks for your time.

 

The Struggle Is Real…

So, who knew it was so muggy on the surface of the sun?Not only do I loathe these 1000 degree days with humidity of 94%, I’m not too crazy about the people who claim to love them.  Plus, I’m not totally convinced they’re telling the truth.

I mean, c’mon!  Do they also love paper cuts and black licorice?

Yeah, sure they do.

I know I’m really good at hiding it, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; the NC summer makes me kinda cranky.  And hot food and hot kitchens just make me crankier.Here’s a perfect summer day for me: fall.

This time of year, I am on a one-woman mission to make farmers rich buying ingredients for an ever-expanding collection of salad recipes.

I always have dried fruits and nuts in the fridge.  It can be any combination.  Mine rotates often; currently, it’s butter-toasted pecans with cherries.  They’re for salads and a million other uses.

Honey poached pears with blue cheesepoached pears3 Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored

½ cup honey

1 ½ cups water

¾ cup white wine

½ teaspoon each, kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Place water, wine, salt & pepper into large saucepan.  Pour in honey and dissolve.  Add pears, cut side down and cover pot.  Cook on medium-low until a knife easily pierces the fruit (about 20 minutes).  Refrigerate until service.

Dressingblue cheese dr2/3 cup mayonnaise

½ cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper

1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled

½ cup sliced, toasted almonds

Whisk first 4 ingredients together, fold in cheese, season.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  For service: place one pear on each plate, spoon over dressing, and sprinkle almonds on top.  Serves 6.

Mushroom Ranch Saladshroom salad

4 cups cleaned and sliced mushrooms

½ cup dried fruits and nuts

2 handfuls baby spinach

Salt & pepper

Ranch dressing

Toss first three ingredients.  Add dressing a bit at a time until the salad is barely coated.  Season to taste.  Serves 2.

Warm duck saladwarm duck salad3 duck breasts

3 cups fingerling potatoes, cut into coins and cooked in boiling salted water until fork-tender

½ cup dried fruits and nuts

6 cups mixed salad greens

Shaved white onion

1/3 cup goat cheese

Salt & pepper

Balsamic dressing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees..  Season duck breasts and score skin with very sharp knife into diamond shapes.  Place duck, skin side down into cold cast iron skillet and cook on medium until skin is crispy and golden (8-10 minutes).  Pour off duck fat and save, flip duck skin side up, and move to oven.  Cook until internal temp is around 135 degrees and the meat is medium-rare.Remove from pan and let rest.

While the meat is resting, put potatoes into skillet, and cook, tossing occasionally, until they are browned and crusted, seasoning as needed.

To plate: Put salad greens into a large bowl and add onions, fruits and nuts.  Season.  Drizzle on dressing and toss until lightly coated.  Divide greens onto three plates, sprinkle top with goat cheese, and scatter potatoes onto the edge of the greens.  Slice duck and lay against the spuds.  Serves 3.

Slightly Calmer Spouse Salad

Serves 1spouse salad5 cups salad greens

1/3 cup fruit and nuts

1/3 cup crumbled goat or blue cheese

Shaved white onion

Salt & pepper

Balsamic dressingbread wineFresh whole wheat roll and real butter

Very large glass of chilled wine

Toss salad, season, and lightly dress.  Enjoy meal alone, while in pajamas and watching reality TV, or reading a beach book.  And relax—it’ll be cool in October.Thanks for your time.

Blue and green

I love it, Petey likes it, but in moderation, and The Kid can’t stand it.

I’m talking blue cheese.

So when I googled “Blue cheese, I discovered something…

 

I discovered that this too, is called blue cheese.

When I was little, on the rare occasion when I was forced to eat a green salad, I passed up the thousand island, and asked for blue cheese, ‘cause that’s what my dad ate (Ranch wasn’t an option, as it was only discovered in 1979 when a guy in Idaho trying to dig his way to China struck a rich vein of ranch dressing in his backyard.).  I enjoy the funky saltiness of blue, and still love the dressing on canned pears—I know; weird, but try it before you judge too harshly.

Ten or twelve years ago, on a family vacation to the mountains, Petey discovered the joyous combo of blue cheese and beef.  But he shies away from too much or too strong; so that means no gorgonzola or Roquefort for my ever-loving spouse.

The Kid?  Forget it.  Although normally an extremely adventurous diner, blue cheese, along with coconut and beets, are on the iron-clad official “Thou shalt not pass (my lips)” list.

k hate

Nope.Nope.Nope.

Recently Petey and I discovered a new blue that we really like.  It’s Carolina Bleu, from the Ashe County Dairy.  It’s quite mild and much softer than a normal version.

I had picked up some hamburger on the $2.99 sale that Fresh Market has on ground chuck every Tuesday, and when I discovered that the Durham Co-op carries Carolina Bleu, I decided to make hamburgers.

Carolina Bleu-stuffed burgers

blue burger

1 pound ground beef

2 ¼-inch slices Carolina Bleu cheese

Divide meat into fourths.  Make four flat burgers about 4 inches across.  Place cheese on two of the burgers.  Cover with the other burgers and seal the two together making sure they are completely sealed.

Cook on a crazy hot cast iron skillet for 2-3 minutes per side.  Don’t overcook or the cheese will ooze out and leave you with nothing in the center but disappointment. 

Dress and enjoy.  Serves 2.

On the same trip to the co-op, I picked up the cutest little baby zucchinis.  It was a complete impulse buy; I had no clue what I would do with them…until I started thinking side dishes for the stuffed burgers.

Zucchini fries

zucchini fries

8 baby zucchini, washed and quartered, length-wise

Flour for dredging, very heavily seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Fine sea salt

Oil, for frying

Place seasoned flour into a large zip-top bag.  Pour buttermilk into a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish, mix together breadcrumbs and Parm.

Coat squash in flour, shaking off excess.  Dredge in buttermilk, then breadcrumbs, making sure veg is totally coated.  Place on parchment-lined tray and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to six,

When ready to cook, heat 1 ½ inches of oil in heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 325 degrees.

Working a few at a time, fry sticks until they are golden brown.  Salt directly after removing from oil, then place on a cooling rack in a 170-degree oven to keep warm until they are all cooked.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce of your choice (I like ranch or mouth-puckeringly sour lemon aioli).

I’ve two things in closing.

I recently discovered this cheese is also carried at Earth Fare, in Raleigh’s Brier Creek.

And because this cheese is so soft and sliceable, I think it would work really well for a grilled cheese on hearty whole grain bread.     

Thanks for your time.