Potato and Italian Sausage Salad

Potato and Italian Sausage Salad.

Potato and Italian Sausage Salad.

A fellow blogger that I’ve just begun following recently posted a winter potato salad that is different than most potato salads especially in that it contained sliced kielbasa sausage. While I’m happy to eat vegetarian dishes, this struck me as particularly satisfying to serve as a meal, so I considered what ingredients I had on hand and came up with this idea: potato and Italian sausage salad. My version is similarly of the season in that today is a cold, snowy New England day… the sort that dissuades you from running to the market for just the right ingredients.

For this salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • red potatoes, about 8 large, quartered or smaller (bite-sized)
  • Italian sausages, 3 sweet or hot, fresh (or uncooked from frozen)
  • yellow onion, 1 medium
  • baby spinach leaves, a few hands-full, fresh
  • Parmiagiano-Reggiano or other hard Italian cheese, cut into tiny pieces (about 1/4 inch cubes) or coarsely grated

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and, for the dressing:

  • mayonnaise
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fennel seed
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • oregano (sparingly to taste)
  • Dijon mustard
  • apple cider vinegar

My dressing had a generous amount of fennel seed, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
As usual, I didn’t measure my ingredients; if you need hints on quantities, consider this recipe.

Dressing base ingredients. (Red pepper flakes, Dijon mustard, diluted with apple-cider vinegar, not shown.)

Dressing base ingredients. (Red pepper flakes, Dijon mustard, diluted with apple-cider vinegar, not shown.)

I originally meant this to be a potato salad with Italian flavors, but punched it up with Dijon mayonnaise, that of course goes quite well with sausage and potato.

To prepare:

Start by steaming the quartered potato; cook until tender. Meanwhile, cook the sausages. Mine were frozen, so I start by boiling them then, after cooked thoroughly (in a skillet of just-boiling water, over medium low heat, perhaps 20 minutes), poor out the water and brown them.

Boiling fresh Italian sausage and steaming red potato.

Boiling fresh Italian sausage and steaming red potato.

For uncooked sausages that are not frozen, you can also brown them first in a skillet, then boil them to cook through afterwards. (This latter method has the advantage of not risking the separation of fat in the casing, that sometimes results in the casing breaking and spewing hot fat all over.)

While browning the sausages in a pan, add the sliced onion and brown it as well.

Browning onions and cooked Italian sausage.

Browning onions and cooked Italian sausage.

When the potatoes are tender, remove from heat, but add the spinach to the steamer basket (and cover) to lightly steam the spinach.

Once all these ingredients are done, let them sit perhaps an hour to cool to approximately room temperature. This is a good time to prepare the dressing in which you’ll toss the aforementioned prepared ingredients.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a large bowl to taste, to yield approximately 1/3 cup total; you might wish to use some water to dilute it to a consistency suitable for tossing.

A salad dressing of mayonnaise, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fennel seed, freshly-ground black pepper.

A salad dressing of mayonnaise, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fennel seed, freshly-ground black pepper.

Once cooled, toss the cooked ingredients and cheese in the dressing. I used a bowl scraper to turn and distribute the dressing ingredients.

Ready to toss the ingredients with the dressing.

Ready to toss the ingredients with the dressing.

Lastly, refrigerate the salad for a number of hours, tossing occasionally to redistribute the ingredients and dressing; also, taste test it and, if desired, add more diluted mustard, black pepper, and/or red pepper flakes. Letting the salad sit for a time also allows the fennel seeds and had Italian cheese to soften slightly before serving.

I removed this salad from the refrigerator for an hour or so and served it at about temperature for dinner.
It’s an unusual “meat and potatoes” meal, but perfectly satisfying all on its own!

Potato and Italian sausage salad.

Potato and Italian sausage salad.

Here are some recipes you might like; the first inspired me here and the other is a favorite from Mark Bittman:

Thanks for the inspirational recipe, Mimi! :)

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Pupusas

Refried bean and cheese Pupusas.

Refried bean and cheese pupusas.

This afternoon we made pupusas, a traditional Salvadorian stuffed, soft tortilla.

As it happens, the east coast is currently awaiting a nor’easter blizzard that is expected to deliver 1-3 feet of snow and up to 60 mile per hour winds. Boston has a unique alert system for such winter storms: The French Toast Alert System, so called due to the propensity of area residents to stock up on bread, eggs, and milk with the likely prospect of being stuck at home during the storm. Instead, we prepared by making pupusas of masa de maiz, refried beans, and cheese… enough so there are some leftovers (even thought they’re likely best eaten fresh.)

I was introduced to pupusas a few years ago by an Indian friend, i.e., from India, while I was couch-surfing near Baltimore, Maryland, of all places. He took me to his favorite Salvadorian restaurant, a modest place called Bananitos, where friendly Salvadorian ladies were continually preparing pupusas by hand and other Salvadorian dishes for a stream of customers, many to take away.

To make your own pupusas, start by making a simple dough of masa and water, so that the dough is a bit sticky, but can be rolled into a ball yet still flattened without cracking at the edges. (We used Maseca brand instant corn masa flour.)

Roll dough pieces into an approximately golf ball-sized balls (or slightly larger), push each flat, then add a spoonful of filling in the middle, e.g., refried beans mixed with shredded cheese. (We used smoked mozzarella.) Next, wrap the dough around the filling back into a ball and then re-flatten it into a tortilla perhaps 1/4 inch thick. Try to keep the filling contained when pressing, but it’s OK if leaks a bit.

Preparing refried bean and cheese pupusas.

Preparing refried bean and cheese pupusas.

Next, simply cook the tortillas a few minutes per side at medium or medium-low heat on an oiled surface, e.g., a cast iron pan, until a bit browned and cooked through.

Cooking pupusas in an oiled pan.

Cooking pupusas in an oiled pan.

Pupusas are typically served accompanied by a mildly pickled cabbage slaw called curtido and a tomato sauce. We served our pupusas with a green cabbage slaw of the sort one might serve with fish tacos and a mole sauce, left over from last night’s mole chicken.

Pupusas with cabbage slaw and sauce.

Pupusas served with cabbage slaw and sauce.

Pupusas are a wonderful treat from central America that, whenever I see them, I’m reminded of visits with my exuberant Indian friend, a great citizen of the world, with whom I first shared them.

Here are some recipes I consulted that you might find helpful:

I found pupusas fairly forgiving to prepare, being able to add additional water to the dough (that I had originally prepared for dumplings cooked in the mole sauce) until it was possible to work (or rework) them easily into thick tortillas.

I hope you give them a try and enjoy them too!

I bet pupusas would be nice accompanied by scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Maybe we’ll be snowed-in soon and I’ll have a chance to find out, while the rest of Boston presumably enjoys french toast. :)

Mustard and Black Pepper Pork Tenderoin

Mustard and Black Pepper Pork Loin with a salad of mixed greens, fingerling potatoes and blanched red onion.

Mustard and Black Pepper Pork Tenderloin with a salad of mixed greens, fingerling potatoes and blanched red onion.

This one is pretty much just an easy serving suggestion.  Pork tenderloin is one of the easiest meats to prepare since it’s inherently tender… one just needs to be sure not to overcook it.

Here, I first browned the tenderloin in a bit of oil in a pan.  Then I slathered the pork with mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon), a bit of olive oil, and freshly ground Tellicherry peppercorns, and cooked it for 25 minutes or so in a 325° F oven until it was about medium (still slightly pink) doneness.

I served the pork topped with a simple sauce made of the mustard, thinned with balsamic vinegar (if I recall correctly :) ). It was accompanied by a mixed green salad including boiled fingerling potatoes and blanched strips of red onion. (From the looks of them, these may be fat finger[ling] potatoes :) .)  You can blanch the onion strips by tossing them in the water with the boiling potatoes just before draining.  The pototoes and onion were tossed with a bit of Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing. (See this post if you wish to make your own version of this great dressing.)

This dinner is easy and delicious. I could also imagine rolling the tenderloin in cracked peppercorn, as you might have a peppercorn-encrusted beefsteak.

Sailcooking: Wood-Fired Steak and Spicy Green Beans

Our chartered sailboat docked at an island, as seen from the firepit near the beach.

Some of my friends are experienced sailors, and I recently had the awesome opportunity to sail Lake Superior with them; specifically, we explored the Apostle Islands.  There were a total of four of us guys on our chartered sailboat for four days in early September.

I don’t know much about sailing, so I made my primary contribution be our food; I did the food shopping and the cooking of our evening meals including chicken fajitas, birch-grilled steak, and grilled pork chops marinated in salsa verde.

We stayed on the boat every day of the trip; it was conveniently equiped with quite a complete kitchen, and even a propane-fueled grill over the stern.

The sailboat galley with gimbaled stove.

On one day we sailed to an island that had a dock in water deep enough for our keelboat, so that day we grilled ribeye steaks ashore over local birchwood from the boreal forest.

While we are all meat-eating men, we’re not savages.  We accompanied the dinner with a salad with freshly-made croutons of diced sourdough bread browned in olive oil, minced garlic, and salt.

Garlic sourdough croutons.

Mixed greens salad.

Our side dish was spicy green beans, similar to szechuan-style green beans.  Red pepper flakes and garlic were soaked in olive oil for a while, then we sautéed whole, trimmed green beans in that spiced oil.

Spicy green beans.

While I was aboard preparing the sides, one of my fellow sailors expertly grilled our thick ribeye steaks (rubbed with garlic olive oil, and minced garlic, salt and pepper) at the beach over a birchwood fire.  They were excellent, as evidence by my eating before taking a photograph; grilling over wood makes a huge difference in flavor as compared to gas or charcoal.

Ribeye steak grilled over birchwood, spicy green beans, and salad.

It was a spectacular trip, and the four of us guys managed to eat better than we ought to have. Ah, roughing it. :)

Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise: a french treat with tuna and anchovies

Here’s a delicious and colorful salad that makes a whole meal… and it’s perfect to make with your fresh vegetables on a warm summer day.

There are a number variations of the Niçoise Salad, common in its namesake city, Nice, France, and along the rest of the Côte d’Azur, where I first enjoyed it.
Apparently it became popular in the states because of Julia Child.

Last night, in anticipation of this salad, my companion and I biked around our city to procure vegetables from the yard and from a little farmers’ market (4-7pm!).  After a nice summer evening’s ride with a short stop for live music and visiting friends, we prepared our ginormous Niçoise salad from these ingredients (for 4 meal-sized servings):

  • romaine and other leaf lettuce, torn to bite sized
  • Nasturtium leaves, chopped
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • scallion greens, from 2 scallions, finely cut
  • green beans, 1 pound, blanched (we substituted some nice Dragon Tongue Beans that surprising lost their purple stripes when cooked)
  • ripe roma tomatoes, 3, quartered and coarsely chopped
  • eggs, 4, hard-boiled, and quartered
  • fingerling potatoes (~1/2 pound), boiled (e.g., with the eggs)
  • green olives, pitted
  • tuna, 1 can, partially drained of oil
  • anchovy, about 2/3 of one very small jar

Dressing ingredients:

  • balsamic vinegar, 1 T.
  • apple cider vinegar, ~1/8 cup
  • Dijon-style mustard, 1-2 T. (e.g., Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
  • honey, ~1 t., to taste
  • olive oil, 1-2 T.
  • water (sparingly, to dilute slightly if desired)
  • capers
  • salt & pepper, to taste if desired

Niçoise Salad

To serve, we tossed the cooked beans with dressing, and placed them atop the chopped lettuce on a large platter and arranged the other toppings, leaving the tuna and anchovies for last, and finally lightly drizzled the salad with the rest of the dressing and olive oil.

Salade Niçoise, plated

I enjoyed this both for dinner and my subsequent day’s lunch. :)

Give it a try and experinece this tasty sample of southern France, especially if you can find some beautilful vegetables in your garden or at your farmers’ market!

Update (June, 2013):

I made this again… this time with the traditional green (string) beans and used a combination of pimento-stuffed spanish olives and jalapeno-stuffed olives. Also, I used a spicier Dijon mustard (Trader Joe’s)… mmm, still awesome.

Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise

Mediterranean White Fish Salad

Mediterranean White Fish Salad

I visted the farmers’ market this morning and found some nice romaine lettuce and slender green onions (amongst other things) and decided to make this quick salad for lunch – before, hopefully, heading out to the lake with some friends.

Ingredients, for the fish:

  • white fish filet (I used swai, from frozen; tilapia would be a good choice as well)
  • lemon juice
  • dill
  • mint leaves, finely chopped
  • rosemary
  • fennel seed
  • oregano
  • green onion, whites cut finely
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • kyopoolu (I used Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread;
    You can also find kyopoolu or avjar at Polish, Bulgarian, etc. delis or stores.)

Ingredients for the salad:

  • romaine lettuce
  • green onions, greens cut finely
  • kalamata olives
  • balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • olive oil

To prepare:

Pat the filet mostly dry and coat liberally with all the spices, i.e., everything but the green onion and kyopoolu, as if you were making blackened fish, for instance.  In a cast iron or other skillet on medium high heat, pan fry the filet in olive oil.  When the fish is nearly done (flip to cook both sides), add the green onion to the hot pan and spread a teaspoon or two of kyopoolu on onse side of the filet, and flip that side down briefly.

Here, I served the fish filet atop a salad of the ingredients above, drizzled with some olive oil.

This was a tasty salad; I hope it inspires you to have a nice summertime lunches too. :)

Sesame Pea Shoot Salad

Sesame Pea Shoot Salad with red pepper and chickpeas

This salad was my veggie offering at two Memorial Day BBQ parties that I attended; it’s a simple salad of basically 3 vegetables and a tangy dressing.

The salad dressing is my homemade version fo Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing.  I simply worked from the ingredient list on my empty bottle: vegetable oil, water, tahini, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, [lemon juice,] salt, garlic, sesame seeds, [spices, zanthan gum.]

“Goddess” dressing ingredients

I skipped the ingredients shown in brackets (above), used sunflower oil, and I used tamari instead of soy sauce.  (Tamari is basically a gluten-free soy sauce.)

Combine these ingredients in a blender and liquify while adjusting to taste.  To the best of my recollection I used these quantities:

  • ~2 T. sunflower oil
  • ~1/3 cup water
  • ~1- 1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • ~2 T. tahini
  • ~1 1/2 T. tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • salt to taste (sparingly, as the tamari or soy sauce is salty)

I deferred the addition of~4 T. sesame seeds to the salad afterward rather than blending into the salad dressing.

If you’ve not had Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing, it’s a smooth dressing that is tan in color (slightly browner than the tahini).

The blended “Goddess” dressing

To prepare the salad, I coarsely chopped 8 oz. of pea shoots, finely diced one red pepper (seeds and veins removed), and drained and rinsed one soup-sized can of chickpeas.

Then I tossed the pea shoots, red pepper, and chickpeas with about 1/4 of the aforementioned prepared dressing (add sparingly, so as not to drown the vegetables in dressing), and a generous amount of sesame seeds.

I don’t know whether or not everyone enjoyed this salad, but I did, and the dish was empty by the time I left the party.

Regardless, whether you buy it from the store or make it yourself, this dressing is a hit.

Yay, I’m all caught up – now just to read all your recipes that I missed! :-)

A Shrimpy Lobster Roll

The Grilled Shrimp Roll

Shrimp Week’s dramatic conclusion!

If you’ve ever had a Lobster Roll, then you know it’s approximately the best sandwich in the universe…
Certainly, you’ll agree it’s at least the best sandwich in Maine.
Here’s my twist on that classic, prepared with some left-over grilled shrimp.

Shrimp Roll ingredients

Ingredients (per sandwich):

  • cooked shrimp, I used 5 large grilled shrimp cut to bite-sized pieces
  • 2 napa cabbage leaves
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • chives, minced
  • ciabatta or other long sandwich roll
  • Thai Peanut-Lime Dipping Sauce

Preparation:
In a bowl, simply mix shrimp, celery, chives, and (sparingly) the coconut milk-based peanut-lime sauce to prepare a sort of shrimp salad.  Since the sauce is quite thin, be sure not to add too much.
Assemble the sandwich by filling the roll with that mix, atop the napa cabbage leaf; this helps prevent the thin sauce from saturating the roll.

Grilled Shrimp Salad / sandwich filling

I served the Shrimp Roll with a bit more sauce for dipping.

Grilled Shrimp Roll with Thai Peanut-Lime Dipping Sauce

As you can see, this sandwich is so tasty that I didn’t manage to get another photo before taking a few bites. :-)

You can find the recipe for the sauce here:

Coconut, Peanut, & Pea Shoot Salad

Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Here’s a delicious salad that I arrived at by accident… and, despite having two nuts in its name, it contains no nuts, since coconut is not a proper nut and peanut is a legume or bean!

I was planning to make Tom Kha Talay, but when I opened the can of what I thought was coconut milk, I found that I had bought a can of young coconut meat instead. No problem, right?

If you’ve ever bought a young coconut, often served in China-towns as a coconut water beverage, then you’re probably familiar with the tender, sweet meat that lines the young coconut cavity.  The canned version I bought is the same, but in a sweet sugar-based syrup.

So, what to do?  I still had a pile of pea shoots for a salad to accompany the soup… how about adding the sweet coconut meat to a soup and a salad?

Here are the salad ingredients: pea shoots, mung bean sprouts, sliced young coconut meat, chopped roasted, unsalted peanut, tossed with a modest amount of Trader Joes’ Goddess dressing and a dash of fresh lime juice, and topped with more chopped peanut and lime zest.

As a fairly quick lunch, a number of the ingredients are off-the-shelf from the store.
If you haven’t had Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing, it is an oil and vinegar-based dressing with a delicious flavor dominated by soy, tahini (sesame), and garlic.

Prepared ingredients

For my  lunch, the salad was accompanied by Tom Yum Goong, made from store-bought Tom Yum Paste, homemade fish stock, diced potato, sliced carrot, sliced scallion, chopped green cabbage, quartered baby bella mushroom, chopped fresh cilantro, peeled shrimp (from frozen, raw), and chopped young coconut meat.

Tom Yum Goong with Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Next time you’re in an asian grocery, pick up some young coconut, and give this great salad and/or soup a try!

Chicken Fajita Salad

Chicken Fajita Salad

Marinate chicken breasts (one per serving) in lime juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, ground cumin, and crushed whole dry mexican oregano (i.e., oregano with buds).
I suggest marinating them for 8-48 hours.

Prepare pico de gallo: diced tomato (cored), finely diced jalapeno, minced garlic, minced onion (white), chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt.
Optionally add diced ripe (but not too ripe) avocado.

Prepare a creamy cilantro-lime sauce of: sour cream, heavy cream and/or milk, fresh cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, cumin powder, fresh ground pepper, and salt.
Purée this in a food processor or blender.

Pan fry strips of corn tortillas in olive oil until crisp.

Grill or pan fry the whole marinated chicken breasts in oil and marinade; blacken and sauté red pepper strips. Slice the chicken breasts (across the grain) and serve with the sautéd red pepper strips atop chopped Romaine lettuce. Top with cilantro-lime sauce, pico de gallo, crisp tortilla strips, and garnish with slices of lime, ripe avocado, and cilantro leaves.

I consulted these recipes for ingredient ideas:

“Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce”
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-cilantro-lime-sauce-10000000221985/

“Chicken Fajita Salad”
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-fajita-salad/