Extra Special Challenge: Jennie’s recipes!

It was truly a pleasure to cook with Erika again during our Labor Day visit to Arkansas.  Those ribs you see in her pictures absolutely tasted even better than they look.  Erika’s sauce recipes are phenomenal and if you try them, you’ll probably never bother to buy bottled BBQ sauce again!   Ditto for the black bean salad.  I think we ate about half of it before dinner was even ready because we couldn’t stop sampling it.  FYI:  it’s great on chips too!

I love, love, love to make BBQ sides.  Truth be told, side dishes are almost always my favorite, and I don’t think any BBQ (or any other Southern gathering, for that matter) can be called complete without a great potato salad.  Even if you usually buy your potato salad pre-made, I STRONGLY encourage you to try this one.  It’s super easy and requires fewer ingredients than a lot of the recipes out there.  The success is all in the method.  I’m also featuring a fruit salad that makes a tasty light(ish) desert after you’ve gorged yourself on meat and potatoes.  Try to save room…

Erika and I in the kitchen. Cooking isn't always glamorous!

Super Simple Potato Salad


Ingredients:

-1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon Gold or similar yellow potatoes, cut into NO LARGER THAN a 1/4″ dice

-1/2 of a small yellow onion VERY finely diced

-1/2 cup of good mayonnaise

-1/4 cup of dijon mustard

-1/4 cup of  white wine vinegar

-2 tbps. of fresh dill weed, chopped fine

-pinch or two of kosher salt

Method:

Place the diced potatoes in a large pot of cold and well-salted water and bring to a boil over medium high to high heat.

While the potatoes are boiling, dice your onions and put them into the bottom of a large serving bowl.

Continue boiling the potatoes until they’re fork tender, between 12 and 15 minutes.  Once they’re ready, drain them and then pour them immediately over the onions in the serving bowl.  While you wait for the potatoes to cool, go ahead and make the dressing by combining the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and dill weed in a small bowl, blending it all together with a fork until the mixture is smooth.

Once your potatoes reach room temperature, mix in the dressing, stirring well to combine.  Serve immediately or chill first.  It’s up to you.

In case you were wondering:

Why do the potato pieces have to be so small?  For one thing, they’ll cook more quickly, making this a faster recipe.  However, the more important reason is so that the dressing will coat them really well on all sides.

What constitutes well-salted water?  Please taste your salted water.  Add the salt, stir, then taste.  It should taste slightly less salty than sea water.  If you can’t taste the salt in the water, you haven’t added enough to enhance the food.

Why do you pour the hot potatoes on top of the diced onions?  The heat from the potatoes will cook the onions ever so slightly helping them to lose a bit of their raw pungency.  This helps the flavors balance and also makes the final product more kid friendly.  (I don’t know many kids who eat raw onion.)

What if my potatoes get mushy while I’m mixing it all together?  That’s fine.  Mine usually get a little bit mushy and I don’t care a bit.  Cooking the potatoes until they’re really tender and then letting them fall apart a little as you mix means the ingredients will combine evenly.

Cool and Creamy Fruit Salad


Ingredients:

1/2 of an 8oz. package of cream cheese

1 small jar of peach preserves

1 small container of vanilla yogurt

1 tbsp. of rum (optional)

1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar

1 small pinch of kosher salt

3 ripe bananas, sliced into rounds

1 medium pineapple, cut into 1/2″ or smaller chunks

1 package of frozen peach chunks

1/4 cup of toasted coconut (more or less as desired)

Method:

Melt the peach preserves in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.  When the preserves are completely melted, pour them into a blender, add the cream cheese (it will blend better if you break it up first), yogurt, rum, vinegar and salt, and blend until the mixture is uniform.  Set the completed dressing aside in the refrigerator and allow it to chill.

Combine the banana slices, pineapple chunks, and  peach chunks in a large serving bowl that isn’t metal.  Pour the dressing over the fruit a little at a time while you stir.  Add just enough dressing to coat the fruit mixture, but not so much that it gets soggy.  Any leftover dressing makes an excellent fruit dip for snacks.  Sprinkle the fruit salad with toasted coconut, and serve.

In case you were wondering:

Vinegar and salt in fruit salad?  Really?  Yes really!  These are crucial ingredients, and don’t you dare skip them.  They add a touch of tanginess and enhance the flavor of the fruit.  That’s all, I promise.

How do you go about choosing a pineapple?  Pick a pineapple that is golden in color and smells like a pineapple.  If it is green, it isn’t ripe.  Plus ,the aroma that comes from fruit is nature’s way of telling you that it’s ripe and ready to eat.  If fruit smells like cardboard, it’s going to taste like cardboard.

Why can’t I use a metal bowl?  Because it will turn the fruit to mush.  I learned that one the hard way!

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