Home and Home Cooking

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After a week and a half away, S & I returned home on Friday…exhausted. We were in New York, for my parents 50th wedding anniversary, and in Washington, D.C., for a grand tour. Before returning home, we sent the girls off to camp for the summer. We came home kid-free and slept-in on Saturday, which was pretty luxurious.

Upon our return, S & I were ready for some home cooking. When you are on the road for a long time, food at restaurants gets old and it is hard to control yourself when the food is good – which it was.

We did have a couple of very memorable home cooked meals while we were gone: my sister, K, made grilled pizza one night, among other fantastic food; our friend, JS, made Maryland crab cakes, while we were visiting the D.C. area, that were, frankly, stupendous (and she also made fabulous pesto pasta and chocolate souffle); and finally, we had an incomparable breakfast at S’s cousins’ home – they made a full list of J’s favorite breakfast foods.

Nonetheless, we arrived home craving fresh fruit and vegetables, less salt, and, actually, a little less of everything. I will be mostly cooking for 2-4-dinner for the summer, except when guests are here. And, that has already occurred. Saturday night, Grandma and WG were here for dinner. Here is the menu we had:
Hummus and chips (while I was cooking)
*Chicken – roasted on the barbeque in a cast iron pan (too hot to use the oven)
*Asparagus vinaigrette
*Beets
*Sliced fresh tomatoes

I don’t like to tamper too much with vegetables when they are so perfect at this time of year. Just a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Or, plain. This dinner was great kick-off to healthier eating. The chicken was from the farmers market and was a real “range” chicken. No cage, no all-day coup. Lean and delicious.

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Sunday, we had a group of friends join us and I made a dinner with a down-home theme. Sort of the anti-healthy meal, without any Jello (which may be a point of contention since Jello is a competitive sport with these friends). We served:
*Chips, guacamole and salsa (nibbles)
*BBQ Ribs (take-out from a local rib place)
*Buttermilk Biscuits
*Potato Salad
*Coleslaw (non-mayo kind)
*Corn on the cob
*Olallieberry Buckle with fresh strawberry ice cream (courtesy of a generous guest!)

Starch with a little more starch – all for a theme. I probably could have skipped the potato salad. But, I love potato salad. I don’t like it with a ton of mayonnaise, though. New potatoes, crunchy celery and scallions, a little tang from vinegar and sour cream. Very basic, but pretty darn good.

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The Ollalieberry Buckle was made with some berries that I had frozen last year. We went berry picking and picked an enormous quantity of berries with some friends from out of town. I made 24 jars of jam with last year’s take, and still froze several bags worth. We are down to our last bag, and I used those berries for the buckle. Buckles are a very easy and delicious cake, so named because the fruit, which is laid on top of the cake batter, buckles to the interior of the cake during baking. The recipe that I use comes from Everyday Food Magazine, but I add some almond extract to give the cake a little extra flavor.

Here are the recipes for the potato salad and the buckle.

Basic Potato Salad
(for a crowd)

3 lbs. red “new” potatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped celery, about 3 ribs (1/4 inch dice)
3/4 c. chopped scallions, about 6 (white and 2/3 of grean part)
1/2 cup chopped shallot or red onion
4 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 c. plust 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I use Best Foods or Hellman’s)
1/4 cup sour cream
salt, pepper and paprika

Wash and quarter potatoes. Put potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water by about an inch. Add 1 Tbsp. kosher salt to the water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes after boiling). Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Sprinkle with the vinegar and then stir to distribute the vinegar. Let the potatoes cool for a minimum of a half hour. Add the celery, scallions, shallot/red onion, mayonnaise, and sour cream, plus 1 tsp. kosher salt and 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Stir well and taste. Add additional salt and pepper, as desired.

Transfer the potato salad to a bowl and chill. Sprinkle the top with paprika before serving.

You could add more mayo or sour cream, if you’d like. Also, as an addition, you could throw in some bacon…yes, that would be very good.

Olallieberry Buckle
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
Serves 8

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 ½ cups frozen or fresh olallieberries

Confectioners sugar (optional)
Vanilla or berry ice cream (essential)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 2-quart oval or square baking dish (9-inch square Pyrex works perfectly).

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine. Beat in the almond extract. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder; with mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture until incorporated.

Spread batter into the prepared baking dish. Distribute the olallieberries on top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean and top is golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, or more. Sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, just before serving.

Cut into 8 pieces and serve with ice cream. There will not be leftovers, but if there are, this is a very good cake to snack on later!

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