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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Syracuse Salt Potato Salad - American - Sides 4

Salt Potatoes are a dish synonymous with Syracuse, NY and is a staple of the region's summer time and cookout cuisine. Born out of the lunch-time tradition of the many salt-workers that supported the salt industry from the springs and marshes along Onondaga Lake, their appeal eventually extended beyond the industrial water front centers and became a favorite across Central New York by the early 1900's and remain so today. So much so in fact, that they are a permanent resident on the menu of Dinosaur BBQ restaurants, which is now one of the city's best known modern day exports with locations opening up as far south as our very Baltimore. This is where I first tasted, and fell in love with the savory fluffy (never water-logged) Salt Potato.

I've been exploring options for side dishes and snacks that can be taken for lunch, the typical fare of carrots and hummus or tuna salad just aren't cutting it anymore. I picked some red skin potatoes recently and figured I would try to put a spin on one of Mark's Syracuse favorites. This would serve a dual purpose in that I am also developing recipes for our upcoming engagement party, for which I am determined to prepare all the food for the "Maryland meets Syracuse" themed affair.

Typically the salt potato is boiled in briny water, then tossed in or otherwise infused with a bit of garlic. I decided I wanted to steep the potatoes in a combination of garlic and fresh herbs in additional to the salt. I used black pepper, dried thyme, garlic powder and lots of fresh whole rosemary springs to create the fragrant brine. It filled my kitchen with the most delicious savory steam as the potatoes boiled and my mouth was watering by the time I was done. I carefully removed the potatoes once fork tender, so as to retain the cooking solution. I had decided, as the scent intoxicated me (OK maybe it was wine), that I would reserve the liquid and use it to brine for chicken to be used at some later date. I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Once the potatoes had cooled a but, I plucked 2 or 3 springs of fresh rosemary and gave the leaves a fine chop. I did the same to 2 stalks of crunchy celery, and combined it all with about a 1/2 cup of mayo in the potato bowl. Before I mixed it all together, I took some sweet and tender roasted garlic I had made a week earlier and had been keeping in my fridge and added it to the salad-to-be. The cloves were super fragrant and buttery soft, so when i began to toss the mixture together then combined smoothly with the other ingredients.

What resulted was savory, herbaceous, with a subtle crunch that lent a refreshing aspect to the typical potato salad. At an elemental level the dish was incredibly straightforward, at least on paper, but it was elevated by the adoption of the "Salt Potato" preparation, technical success! It was absolutely delicious, eliciting a far more positive response from Mark than I could have hoped for. This is one side that will have a permanent place in my repertoire, despite the fact it wasn't the most photogenic dish...

Syracuse Salt Potato Salad


  • 6 Large Red Skin potatoes - halved
  • 3 Tablespoons salt
  • 6 Sprigs of fresh rosemary (3 plucked and leaves finely chopped)
  • 2 Stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 Table spoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Head of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Place potatoes in a large pot. (Note: traditional Salt Potatoes were made from young, or smaller potatoes - As I was planning on chopping and quasi-mashing into a potato salad, I used a normal sized spuds, recipe works either way_. Add 3 rosemary springs, and the other spices and herbs. Fill with water until the potatoes are covered. Bring to a boil on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender. Meanwhile, if you do not already have roasted garlic on hand, out the oven on 400F, cut the top off of a garlic head place a head of garlic in a small baking vessel, drizzle with the evoo, and roast for the duration of your potato process. When the potatoes are done, carefully remove them from the cooking liquid, and place in a large mixing bowl. Save the liquid to use for a meat brine (chicken or pork would be perfect). Add the chopped celery, chopped rosemary, mayonnaise, and several cloves of the soft roasted garlic. Combine until evening mixed, serve chilled with a rosemary sprig.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When Life Gives You Cabbage...A St. Paddy's Day Tale - Irish - Sides 3

ISt. Paddy's Day is apparently a big deal here in Baltimore, but as one who really doesn't drink beer (green, Guinness or otherwise) and fares very poorly when day drinking, it's never been a major holiday in my book. I turn up my nose at the idea of raucous bar crowds, because you know, I am too old for that and well we're not actually IN Ireland, and up until this year rather loathed the day.

My fiance, while better at day drinking, is similarly aligned on his opinion of the traditional form of celebration. However, growing up in a 50% Irish Catholic household, he has a much stronger association with the holiday. He spent his youth in Syracuse NY, and all of his family members at one point or another, worked at Coleman's - at one point dubbed "Most Authentic Irish Bar in America" and an iconic Syracuse institution ubiquitous to the Irish Americans of the city. Located in the predominantly Irish-American community of Tipperary Hill, replete with upside down stoplight (explained here), Coleman's is home to a large and exuberant St. Paddy's Day parade and played host to many community events about which Mark and his family share countless hilarious and heartwarming stories. So, it's no surprise that Mark has developed his own tradition, having moved away from Syracuse, to mark the day and conjure up those fond memories. Each year he prepares the traditional Irish feast of Corned Beef & Cabbage and shares it with those with whom he lives. 2015 was my first experience, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. So when March began and the shamrocks started to appear in Baltimore bar windows, I was excited for the return of Mark's yearly culinary event.

It must be said, while I am the main cook in the house, Mark is not merely a culinary side kick, in fact he has a broad repertoire, good instincts and I should note, brought at least 25 cooks books to our newly combined household. If you know me, however, the idea of standing by and letting another person take the lead on a meal in my house...well that's a recipe for disaster (pun intended)...

We decided to shop together, bad idea. Had I been the chef, I would have researched best cuts, creative alternatives and fancy spins on staple ingredients, essentially bucking tradition in favor of making it all my own. So naturally, as we strolled the aisles of Harris Teeter one Saturday afternoon, I let my creative juices flow, and to my chagrin my ideas were shot down left and right. Potential moments of culinary brilliance reduced short lived flights of fancy, I was stewing.

It all came to a head at the butcher case. The mere mention of preseasoned beef elicited an awful sneer that I had difficulty removing from my face. That, combined with the condescension that came over my entire being proved to be the tipping point. I was sternly reprimanded, and definitely removed from the project, fired from St. Paddy's Day dinner. I trolled the store in dramatic forlorn fashion for the remainder of the shopping list, clearly moping in my relegation to lowly guest. Fortunately, my resolve or perhaps attention faltered, and dismay was forgotten as soon as we departed for home.

Over the weekend prior, we'd decided to invite our neighbors with whom we have GFD (Gay Family Dinner) as well as another close friend who doesn't live far, and title it as such in honor of our weekly tradition. I could have allowed the naming to add insult to the injury of my non-producing role, but I was honestly happy to be taking a back seat, or really no seat at all. On Thursday morning, while I ironed our shirts, Mark kicked off his process of chopping the various ingredients. He quickly learned our eyes had been bigger than our Crockpot, and we needed to go to the basement for back up. By 8am we had two crock pots full of pickling spice, brisket, cabbage, carrots, the works... And I was only asked my advice a smattering of times (I obviously obliged with the most genuine sweetness).

The beef cooked for 8 hours, and I came home to a house that smelled like..well..St. Paddy's Day, we'll leave it at that. When we pulled the meat out, the last vestiges of bitterness faded, as I could see we were going to be in for a treat. The meat was perfectly cooked, just on the edge of completely falling apart. The vegetables mysteriously treading the line between firm and too tender, and the cabbage, just right. Mark engaged me to do the cutting and I took the liberty of heading up the plating, he knew better than to trust himself with my Instagram subject.

The meal featured Uveja Blanca, a delicious dry Muscat from central Spain with Gewurztraminer traits, that stood up beautifully to the salt and fat that both punctuates and premeates this meal. It was followed by what I think was a Rioja (the label is blurry in my memory) and then to a Bota box, if we're being honest (might explain why I can't remember the name of the other red). In typical GFD fashion we laughed a lot, told questionable stories, and recounted memories from dinners and holidays of the past, all of the things that make GFD such an important part of our lives. I managed to stay awake to see our guests out the door (a challenge for me occasionally) and apparently to promise to do ALL the clean-up, at least that is what Mark tells me...

Ultimately I realized this dinner had been yet another of what will be many undocumented tests in the journey of our relationship, and in its success we had passed a coupledom threshold with flying colors. Despite my near meltdown in HT, and my initial dismay at giving up the dinner reigns, I ended up enjoying observing Mark's pride in his process and in his ability to year over year deliver his own tradition and honor memories of the St. Paddy's days of his youth. I may never don a green tuxedo or down a pint of Guinness in the morning, toasting the most famous of Irish saints, but I am happy to have this new tradition to look forward to for many years to come.

I am not going to share a recipe, it belongs to Mark. While I am happy to partake in this tradition as his partner, it is still his to share not mine to appropriate. I'll simply say he did a wonderful job, and honestly elevated what is typically a very basic dish to new heights of richness and flavor. The process, the preparation, the buttery tender result, they were all his own, traditional yet unique in their own right. He deserves all the credit for making the dinner a mouthwatering success.

Don't worry, there is still a recipe coming... As I mentioned, our eyes were bigger than our crock pot, and even after expanding to employing two such appliances in the cooking process, we were left with a (huge) half a head of cabbage. Normally, I'll admit, something like this would sit in the back of my fridge for weeks, I'd glance at it and pretend to be thinking of a good recipe for which to use it, until it started to turn rancid and then I would dispose of it as soon as it started to smell. Food waste at it's worst.

Fortunately, Mark is what I would term a cole slaw aficionado. Without exception, if there is even a chance a restaurant we visit serves cole slaw, Mark is going to ask, and if available will order it as a side. He LOVES cole slaw about as much as he HATES bacon, so you know it's serious. This fondness offered the perfect to solution to the cabbage food waste dilemma, and I decided to make a slaw from the leftovers. I was even able to incorporate the remnants from several other ingredients from St. Paddy's Day dinner to compound my food utilization success. Inspired by a posting in September of 2015 (the original recipe is actually from 2011) on cookout favorites like baked beans and slaw, I decided to heighten the typical mayonnaise base with the addition of cider vinegar and whole grain mustard (apparently a technique with roots in Tennessee cooking). I added shaved radishes for bite and color, and then grated carrots for their sweetness and ability to mellow the more bracing preceding ingredients. It was delicious fresh and just mixed, but even better the following morning once the dressing had been able to break down the cabbage and the flavors had married. Next time you have left over cabbage, or are in the mood for a delicious slaw, I hope you enjoy!

Tennessee Style Mustardy Cole Slaw:


  • 1/2 head of Green Cabbage - Sliced very thin (or to your slaw texture preference)
  • 4 Medium Carrots - grated on the large side of a cheese grater
  • 4 Large Red Radishes - halved and then sliced very thin
  • 1/4 cup Whole Grain Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey


Combine all vegetables in a large bowl, toss until evenly distributed. Add the vinegar first and toss. Combine mayo, mustard and honey in a small bowl, whisk together. Add to the vegetable and vinegar mix and toss well until evenly coated. Add more mayo or mustard to your taste. Cover with plastic and chill overnight before serving.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bubbly Brussels with Blue & Brie - American - Sides 2

Bubbly Brussels with Blue and Brie

This is just a simple side dish that can really hit the spot when you’re craving something rich and cheesy, or just some alliteration (you’re welcome Mom). The fact it’s primarily Brussels sprouts is why you don’t have to feel terrible about eating it. A coworker recently overshopped the cheese counter for a special event she was doing, and knowing my cheese problem, generously gave me a hunk of Stilton and a double crème Brie that she didn’t end up needing. Short of simply chowing down on the blocks, cheese in one hand wine in the other, I was trying to think of a creative way to use the two. One night, while Mark was stuck at a work function and I was thus left to my own devices for dinner, I figured it was time to put them to use. Partially intended as a way to prevent me from ordering a pizza delivered, and therefore hating myself for another week, and partially because I really like them, I picked up a bag of Brussels sprouts on the way home from work. I figured, sprouts are strongly flavored and delicious when roasted. They would stand up well to the tangy blue cheese, and I would be able to melt the brie to a drool worthy, pour all over yourself and lick off, consistency in the oven. Sorry for the carnal imagery, I just really like cheese. Having sufficiently deluded myself into thinking this vegetable studded cheese melt was somehow on my imaginary diet, I launched in what would be an easy prep. I decided to keep it simple and season with just white pepper, a pinch of salt and finish with fresh ground pepper. I baked it in a pair of extra cute white corning ware casseroles, but it would have been equally as rustic-chic and aesthetically appealing in a pair of mini cast iron pans that I have, so I clearly agonized over the choice. Despite being torn about presentation, early on there was no doubt I would end up eating both casseroles, my best laid plans of portion control were out the window with the first whiff of the baking brie. Cheese chastity just isn’t my thing. I didn’t serve this with any protein, as I was just cooking for myself, but in the end I now have an easy go-to side dish whenever my main requires something sinfully rich and unctuous on the side. Enjoy!

  • 1 bag Brussels sprouts (1lb) – washed, trimmed and halved
  • 3 oz Royal Blue Stilton - small pieces
  • 3 oz Reny Picot Double Crème Brie -  small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon evoo
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to 450F. Toss the Brussels sprouts in evoo. Place half in the chicest little baking vessels you own. Layer in half of your cheeses. Place remaining sprouts in the pans. Top with remaining cheese, finish with salt and black pepper. Bake for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender and the cheeses are 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mushroom and Burrata "Lasagnette" - Italian - Dinner 2

Mushroom & Burrata “Lasagnette”

This dish is admittedly decadent, perhaps to a remorseful degree. The pasta factor, cheese, buttery mushrooms, and more cheese could easily bring about a guilt trip and 5am gym run for the calorie conscious among us, but it’s totally worth it. This mini-lasange is the perfect dinner for two, whether it’s a special occasion or just a weeknight homemade meal. I made it for the celebration of the one year anniversary of my now fiancé and my decision to begin dating. This meal features many of his favorite ingredients, burrata and wild mushrooms namely, so it was an apt way to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of the date through dinner. I picked up fresh burrata from one of our favorite local restaurants, Verde Pizza in Canton. They make the most delicious version of this milky, salty, creamy cousin of mozzarella and I recommend it to everyone, with an addiction warning. I also bought some salty and nutty parmigiano, not just because I love cheese, but because it plays in perfect contrast to the luxuriant burrata. The mushrooms were a mix of cremini, maitaki, and shittake, that I seasoned with rosemary, oregano, and white pepper to give them a deep earthy flavor as they cooked down in the requisite Kerry Gold salted butter. You can use store bought fresh or dried pasta if you like, however, I was feeling inspired and wanted to make it all by hand so I could infuse the pasta with garlic and black pepper. This “Lasagnette” is truly a labor of love…pardon the cheese, Enjoy!



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon evoo
  • Pinch of sea salt

Mushroom Filling:

  • 12 oz fresh burrata
  • 6 oz grated parmigiano reggiano
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 16 oz mixed mushrooms (cremini, maitake, shitake) – rough chop
  • 1 large shallot - diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon evoo
  • Dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and ground white pepper to taste



In a large bowl, place flour in the center and using the back of a measuring cup create a divot (volcano like) in the mound. Drop in garlic powder, black pepper, salt and the evoo around the flour evenly without disturbing the mound. Crack the 3 eggs into the divot. Using a fork or your hands, bring in the dry flour from the sides into the divot. Continue slowly until pieces of dough form. Timing will depend on moisture, but use your hands to combine the dough pieces into one ball. You may need to run a hand under water first if the pieces are too dry to combine. Knead together for about 10 mins on a floured surface. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes to let the glutens rest and fully develop. Once rested, pull off roughly 2 1/2" round balls of dough, leaving the main intact and in plastic so it does not dry out. Flour both sides and use a rolling pin to flatten to about 1/6” and is roughly 4"wide with even ends. Run through a hand crank pasta maker until the desired thickness, I usually take mine down to the second to last thickness as fresh pasta gains a lot of bulk when cooked. Cut into 4” x 4” pieces or whatever will fit in your baking vessels. Mine were mini casseroles so this was the perfect size. Place on a drying rack while you prepare your mushrooms and other ingredients. Repeat with the remaining dough. When your mushroom filling is ready, cook the pasta in salted water for roughly 4 minutes (fresh pasta cooks much faster than dry).

Mushroom Filling and Lasagnette Assembly:

Pre-heat the oven to 450F. In a large saute pan, melt the butter, then add the shallot and cook until transparent. Add the mushrooms slowly, allowing them to coat with butter. Drizzle the evoo and add your herbs. Cook for about 15 mins, mushrooms should be soft and begin to brown. Add the white wine, then turn up the heat and allow the mushrooms to cook down until nearly dry. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl at room temp so they so do not overcook. When the pasta is cooked, brush the inside of your baking vessels with evoo and place a sheet of pasta in the bottom, pressing the sides up to the rim. Layer in mushrooms, ricotta, parm, and torn burrata. Place another sheet of pasta and repeat, reserving a small about of mushroom filling. Place another sheet of pasta on top, mix remaining burrata and mushrooms and place on the top of final sheet. Top with remaining parmigiano. Bake for 25 minutes or until the parm is brown and burrata is bubbling. I turned on the broiler at the last minute just to pump up the golden pasta tips and cheese bubbles. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and serve.

Note: If you’re feeding more than two, this can be made in a traditional casserole, but I warn you, you really need to up the mushroom amount, as they lose significant moisture and mass when cooked.