Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Dill

Potato salad is a great side dish throughout the year, but in Spring I like to make this one, as it stars the delicious and gentle herb dill.

Fresh Dill

Fresh Dill

I like the creamy, buttery Yukon Gold potato for this recipe, though this salad is still delicious with any other waxy potato (see note below about potato types).  Tender chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes and crunchy pieces of celery are paired with a creamy, dill flecked dressing.

Yukon Gold and Dill potato salad

Yukon Gold and Dill potato salad

Try serving this along side poached salmon or chicken and steamed asparagus for a perfect combination.  Enjoy!

Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Dill

4 cups Yukon Gold potato chunks
1 1/2 cups celery, large dice
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 heaping TB course prepared mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large covered pot, cover the potato chunks with water and add 1 tsp. salt to the water.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the chunks are tender, but still hold together.  This will take about 20 minutes or so.  Drain and cool.

To make the dressing, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, dill, 1/2 tsp. sea salt and several grinds of black pepper.

To assemble the salad, gently toss together the cooked and cooled potatoes, celery, and dressing.  Keep stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Taste and adjust seasoning just prior to serving.

Note about potatoes:  Potatoes come in many varieties.  Bakers, like the Russet, are starchy and tend to fall apart when boiled.  Waxy potatoes, like the thin skinned red new potato, keep their shape well when boiled.  Yukon Golds have a rich flavor, and are sort of in between these types, but they hold together well for this recipe.

French Green Lentils with Lemon and Oregano

Lentils come in many varieties.  The beautiful, marbled French Green lentil is fabulous for this simple salad, as it has a great flavor and holds its shape well after cooking.

French Green Lentils, closeup

French Green Lentils, closeup

I dress them when still warm with olive oil, lemon, and lots of fresh oregano.  Oregano is a perennial herb and is in fresh, full Spring growth in my garden right now.  It is easily sourced in the fresh herb section of your grocery store.

Green Lentils with Lemon and Oregano

Green Lentils with Lemon and Oregano

This is an excellent dish to serve at a picnic, for lunch, or as a side dish.  The dish itself is very simple, and I usually don’t measure the ingredients for the dressing very carefully.  Just use my recipe as a guide, and taste as you go.  Enjoy!

French Green Lentils with Lemon and Oregano

1 1/2 cup dry French Green lentils, rinsed
1/4 cup best quality olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
sea salt

Place the lentils in a medium covered sauce pan.  Add water to cover the lentils by at least an inch.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  At the 15 minute mark, lift the lid, check to see that the lentils are still covered by water, and add 1/2 tsp. sea salt.  Add a bit more water if needed.  Simmer for another 5 minutes, then check for doneness.  The lentils should be tender but still whole.  If more cooking is needed, continue to simmer, covered, checking every couple of minutes.  After they are cooked drain excess water and cool until warm.  Dress the warm lentils with the remaining ingredients, adding 1/4 tsp. salt to begin.  Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.  Serve at room temperature.  Will keep in the fridge for a week.

Hot Cross Buns

This is my take on traditional Hot Cross Buns — flavor-filled, spiced sweet dough buns with the sign on the cross frosted on top to remember Good Friday.
Hot Cross BunsMy take on these buns is the selection of spices and dried fruits — fresh orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon perfume the dough while dried sweetened cranberries and currants bring bits of sweetness.  All in all this is one tasty addition to breakfast or afternoon tea.
Hot Cross Buns flavorFor those of you who have experience with yeast doughs, just go straight to the recipe below and get baking, ignoring the photos embedded in the instructions.  I’ve taken several extra photos for this post to help yeast dough newbies feel more comfortable with their process.  But trust me — this is a pretty forgiving dough and you will be delighted at the deliciousness of the end result.  Enjoy!

Hot Cross Buns
makes 24 buns

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup hot water (about 105 degrees)
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
2 TB or 2 packages dried yeast
2 eggs for dough, 1 egg for egg wash
1 TB water for egg wash
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
unbleached all purpose white flour, about 7 – 8 cups total
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried currants
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (I buy whole seeds, then grind with mortar and pestle as needed.)
zest of one orange, fine mince

for frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
cream or half and half, about 2 – 3 TB

Begin by scalding the milk in a microwave oven on high just until milk comes to a boil.  After you remove the milk from the microwave, you will see a skin form.  Remove it with a fork, as shown in photo.  Removing this particular protein will help the dough be light and springy:
Hot Cross Buns milk scumNext, mix dry yeast, 1 tsp. sugar, and hot water together in a bowl.  This is to get the yeast active and growing.  Below, you can see the yeast dry and after a couple minutes in the water sugar mixture:

 

Dry yeast in hot water

Yeast, sugar and water after a few minutes

Yeast, sugar and water after a few minutes

Put the butter pieces in the hot milk, stirring to melt the butter.  Add 1/2 cup sugar, the salt and 2 eggs to the mixing bowl with milk and butter.  Mix until combined.  Then mix in about a cup of the flour and the yeast mixture.  With mixer running on low power, add in more flour, about a cup at a time, until a the dough begins to be a thick, shiny batter.  Continue to mix for a couple minutes.  This is developing the structure of the dough.  Here is what the dough will look like after beating to develop structure:

Dough structure

Dough structure

Now, continue adding enough flour to make a soft dough that begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer, but is still soft.  Set the dough in a warm place with a loose cover to rise.  When it has doubled in volume, you are ready to give it a knead, add the spices, and form the buns.

Spread some flour out on your clean counter.  Turn the warm, risen dough out on the the floured counter and gently give it a couple kneads, adding only enough flour so that it doesn’t stick to your hands or the counter.  Pat the dough out to a rough rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.  Spread the spices and orange zest out on top of this dough.  Then scatter the cranberries and currants on top.  Fold the dough over itself in half, or in a three part fold.  Then gently roll the dough out into a rectangle again, about the same size as the original one.  Then fold and roll the dough one more time.  Now you are ready to form the buns.

Cut the dough into about 24 even sized pieces.  Create a good ball shape by pinching the bottom of the dough while bringing the top of the piece down. This will create a pretty round shaped bun.  Space the buns on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise.  The buns should double in size before they are ready to bake.  How long this takes will depend on how ideal of a temperature you can give them.

Hot Cross Buns balls

Dough balls before rising

When the buns have risen, preheat the oven to 350.

Mix together one egg and 1 TB water.  Just before baking, brush this egg wash on each dough ball.  This will give the buns a nice shiny coat.  Bake at 350 for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and smell heavenly good.  Cool the buns on on a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, put the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Add about 1 TB cream, and mix.  Add more cream in dribbles until a very thick frosting forms.  Pipe this frosting onto the cooled buns in the shape of a cross, and serve.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Cilantro Garlic Lime Sauce

At once a dressing and a dipping sauce, this green concoction is fresh, tangy, fragrant and irresistibly full of cilantro and lime.
Cilantro Garlic Lime Sauce bottleI’ve made many versions of this sauce to pour on grilled steak, but decided to give it a try on grilled chicken and with cooked rice.  It was fabulous on both.  It would also pair well with grilled vegetables or shrimp.
Cilantro Garlic Lime Sauce chicken
Cilantro Garlic Lime Sauce ingredientsThis sauce makes a great dressing for a salad with romaine, tomatoes, and chunks of avocado.  An immersion blender makes quick work of this sauce.  Store in the fridge for up to a week.  For Calvin, my best sous chef.  Enjoy!

Cilantro Garlic Lime Sauce
makes about one cup sauce

1 big bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed and rough chopped, about 2 cups lightly packed
3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
juice and zest of two fresh limes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. sea salt
Habanero hot sauce*, to taste (Tabasco may be substituted)

Use a blender to whirl all ingredients until vibrant green and smooth, about 30 seconds.  Taste for acid/salt balance.  This is an important step.  Working with fresh ingredients means that measurements of key ingredients will need to be adjusted to suit your taste and the ingredients you are using.

 

*note:  To give this sauce some kick I used 15 shakes of a killer good house made habanero sauce called Xni Pec from Cafe Capistrano in Half Moon Bay, CA.  Its intense floral note is retained because it’s not heat processed.  This sauce is amesomely addictive.  The habanero puree in the photo above also works nicely.

Fennel & Mushroom Salad

Crunchy sweet fennel gets mellowed out with fresh mushrooms and savory extra virgin olive oil in this dish, while shaved parmesan adds sophistication to each bite.
Fellen, Mushroom and Parmesean SaladThis is a good salad to know how to make, as the ingredients are delicious and available throughout the year.  All it takes is a sharp knife or a mandolin, and you’ll have this on the table in less than 10 minutes.
Fennel, Mushroom and Parmasean ingredientsThe lemon zest is optional – sometimes I include it, sometimes not.  I happen to have a huge glut of lemons right now, so it finds its way in to many of my dishes.  This recipe doubles easily.  Enjoy!

Fennel & Mushroom Salad

one fennel bulb
6 – 8 large fresh white or brown button mushrooms
1 – 2 TB best quality extra virgin olive oil
parmesan cheese for shaving*
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt

This salad is best served from a platter, as the ingredients are all sliced thin.  Cut the fennel bulb in half, top to bottom, then remove the little solid section near the root end.  It’s edible, and I often include it if I’m cooking fennel, but for this salad it may be a little tough.  Slice the fennel thin, directly onto your serving platter.  Slice the mushrooms thin and pile on top of the fennel.  Gently toss to distribute them evenly.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave some parmesan cheese onto the fennel and mushrooms.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and dust with salt and pepper to taste.  Best served within 15 minutes of dressing with oil and salt.  (If you need to do some prep early, just hold the parmesan, oil, salt and pepper until right before serving.)

* For best flavor, go buy some decent quality cheese in a whole chunk and shave or grate what you need to use right before serving.  This really makes a difference in the flavor of the cheese – much better than the preshaved, pregrated stuff.