French Potato Salad

July is picnic season, and I plan to focus the remainder of this month’s post on picnic friendly fare to celebrate. Fresh dill, parsley, basil, and scallions keep this salad tasting light and fresh. The mildness of champagne vinegar complements the fresh herbs nicely, although you can substitute red wine vinegar if you can’t find champagne. The recommended cooking time for the potatoes is too long unless you use potatoes large enough that they need to be quartered instead of halved. You want them to be fully cooked, but firm so they keep their shape and texture after tossing with the dressing. Test them with a fork to ensure they are cooked all the way through, if you’re feeling uncertain.


What makes this recipe particularly picnic-friendly is that it tastes great warm or at room temperature. If you refrigerate the leftovers, be sure to let them come to room temp before diving in. And let me tell you, this potato salad leftover is delicious! This is an ideal side for all sorts of dishes, meaning it’s a fantastic potluck addition as well. Enjoy!

French Potato Salad by Ina Garten

The Food Network            The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999



Black Bean and Corn Salad

It’s Memorial Day this weekend, and that means celebrating with potlucks and barbeques! I got this salad recipe from my mom and have been using for well over ten years now. It’s just the thing for a warm weather celebration because it’s colorful, filling, and tastes best at room temperature.


Begin by rinsing two cans of black beans until the water runs clear. Drain them well and place them in a bowl with one can of corn, also well drained. (You can also use fresh corn and dried black beans.) To this add one large diced bell pepper, 3 sliced green onions (white and green parts), ½ pint halved cherry tomatoes or 2-3 chopped of your favorite tomato variety, and a full bunch of chopped cilantro (about ½ cup, or more to taste.) This colorful array of vegetables will be dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. Add five tablespoons of good quality olive oil and six tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss together and let sit for at least one hour at room temperature. Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator.


This can be served as a side salad, as a dip for corn tortilla chips, as a taco filling, or on top of warm quinoa for a satisfying lunch. Enjoy, and happy Memorial Day!

Baby Lettuces with Feta, Strawberries, and Almonds

This strawberry salad made a lovely contribution to my book group’s brunch this month. I wanted to make a salad that tasted summery and looked beautiful, and this recipe did the trick!

sweet strawberries and tender baby greens make up the heart of this summer salad

sweet strawberries and tender baby greens make up the heart of this summer salad

For the greens, I went with a mix of baby spring greens. The strawberries I used were rather large, so I sliced them instead of quartering them. I’m loyal to a mild goat’s milk feta that I love. Goat’s milk is also easier to digest than cow’s milk, so it’s a great alternative for people with sensitivities. (Note: this is not the same as lactose-free, it’s just generally easier to digest.) If you’re nervous about using shallots in the dressing—don’t be. The sharpness of shallots adds a needed contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries. As long as they’re properly minced, you’ll be glad you used them. Soaking sliced shallots in ice water for 10 minutes before mincing them will also lower the intensity if you prefer a milder flavor.

salty-sweet marcona almonds

salty-sweet marcona almonds

Surprisingly, my local grocery store was out of smoked almonds, so after considering my options I decided to go with Marcona almonds. These Spanish almonds are soft and sweet, and typically fried and heavily salted. They added the crunchiness and saltiness that the smoked almonds would have, but I prefer their mildness to the heavy smoky flavor of smoked almonds. They’re also soft enough that my lazy-self didn’t need to chop them first.


This salad was a cinch to make and good the next day, as long as you keep the dressing on the side until serving. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

Baby Lettuces with Feta, Strawberries, and Almonds by Jeff Banker

Food and Wine            June 2012

Moroccan Carrot Soup

I’ve been craving a meal that is full of spice—not heat, but a blend of flavors that wakes up my palate. This soup is light enough for Spring, while satisfying the remnants of my desire for rich Winter food.


When I saw the recipe it immediately reminded me of the Roasted Carrot Harrissa I’ve written about before. With that in mind, I added a couple of cloves of garlic to the onions and carrots and was very pleased with the result. If you’re looking for a more complex flavor you can roast the carrots and onions instead of simmering them, but for me simmering allowed the toasted cumin to take center stage. On that note, take a few minutes to toast cumin seeds and grind them yourself as the recipe calls for. It’s surprising that cumin alone can add so much flavor. It’s definitely worth the extra step!

honey, lemon, and allspice are perfectly balanced

honey, lemon, and allspice are perfectly balanced

toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant

toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant

Besides being delicious, this recipe takes about 40 minutes to prepare. It’s bright and beautiful, and couldn’t be more simple.

serve with a dollop of plain yogurt

serve with a dollop of plain yogurt

Moroccan Carrot Soup via Epicurious

Bon Appétit            April 2010

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta

When the sun comes out in Portland, the population of the city doubles. People escape their houses and take to the streets, parks, and cafes to make the most of the fleeting good weather. I am no exception, and I knew I needed to seize this opportunity to use the grill before the rain returned.

ingredients arranged by cooking time

ingredients arranged by cooking time


This recipe appealed to me because it uses vegetables I can find this early in spring, like fennel and zucchini. It mixes the grilled ingredients with fresh tomatoes, basil, and feta to create a pleasing contrast of textures and flavors. The also helpfully provides ideal cooking times for each vegetable so everything cooks evenly. Feta adds a saltiness that really brings out the other flavors, but you could substitute olives to keep this dish dairy free.

grill first, cool, then dice

grill first, cool, then dice


I served this will a simple grilled salmon the first night and grilled chicken sausages a second night. The rain has resumed, but these smoky grilled vegetables promise sunny summer nights are yet to come.


Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta via Fine Cooking

Ellie Krieger            Issue 104

Apple-Filled Acorn Squash Rings

If you’re looking for a special gluten-free side dish for an upcoming holiday gathering, this is an impressive and delicious option. Acorn squash has a nutty flavor and hearty flesh, similar to a butternut. I chose to microwave the whole squash for about two minutes a piece in order to make them easier to cut. This also reduced the roasting time by about five minutes and didn’t impact the overall flavor or texture.

sliced acorn squash rings

sliced acorn squash rings

The heart of the dish is the sautéed apple with currants and curry butter. Some spice brands add flour as an anti-caking agent to their spice mixes. I use Spice Hunter because they promise theirs is gluten free, but you could easily make your own. The recipe calls for Granny Smith but any tart apple will do. I substituted dried cranberries and tart cherries for the currants and didn’t notice a difference. If you have a good butter substitute, such as Earth Balance, this could easily be made vegan. You can make the filling one day ahead, but I’ve never found it labor intensive enough to bother. Remember to salt and pepper to taste before roasting!

apple filling

apple filling

One of the reasons this is such a great special occasion dish is that it’s beautiful. The slices of acorn squash almost look like big stars. You need a good, wide spatula to transfer from the baking dish to the plate, so I recommend roasting the squash in an attractive oven safe serving dish if you plan to make this for company.  The skin remains tough even after roasting, so I prefer not to eat it, but I leave it on because it’s decorative and difficult to remove when the squash is raw.


To turn this into a vegetarian main, I served this with sautéed kale and shallots. We have enough leftover to take some squash-stars to lunch this week. It’s savory with a subtle sweetness from the apples and dried fruit. I love it! I hope you will, too.


Apple-Filled Acorn Squash Rings via Epicurious

Bon Appétit            November 2001

Tangerine & Avocado Salad with Roasted Sunflower Kernels

Sometimes I like to keep it light. This week I have been living on turkey soup and this delightful winter-salad-favorite. Citrus and avocado are actually in season in winter, so they are packed with nutrition and flavor. I pair them with some baby kale or another hearty mix of greens and top it off with roasted sunflower seed kernels. After drizzling a little of my go-to balsamic vinaigrette on top, I dive in.


If you’re curious why I purchased name brand sunflower kernels, the sad truth is that they can be wheat contaminated during the processing. That makes pre-packaged and labeled seeds and nuts safer than bulk, unfortunately.

DSCN1443 This salad couldn’t be easier or, in my opinion, more delicious. Salads are all about balance—finding the perfect combination of flavors and textures. Ideally there is something sweet and something salty, some creaminess and some crunchiness. You want to find flavors that will complement each other without any single one taking center stage. It’s sounds simple, but making a truly fantastic salad takes a little bit of art. Do you have a combination that you’re proud of?