Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.

The last time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Ni├žoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves


Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.


Elote Dip (Creamy Mexican Corn Dip)

>> Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elote Dip (Creamy Mexican Corn Dip)

In Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood near the University of Illinois at Chicago, I would often see men pushing compact food carts in spring and summer, or riding bicycle carts and ringing little bells as they passed. The vendors sell all kinds of treats - ice cream, fruit cups, quick tacos, or elote - corn with mayonnaise, cheese, and a bit of spice. Some vendors sell elote as whole ears of corn with a skewer for you to hold onto while you munch. At a Hispanic grocery store near us, a lady sells little cups of cut corn mixed with the creamy elote sauce. Jessie and Jenn used to love to dip into them with tiny plastic spoons while we examined the produce.

pushcart vendor making fruit cups  in Rogers Park, Chicago

Of course, one of the many wonderful things about corn on the cob is that it gives you an extra incentive to floss your teeth (which we're all doing 12 times a day already, right?). But as a dip with tortilla chips, elote has the benefit of very little cleanup afterward.

When my sister and nephew stopped over last week on the way to the National Dive Meet in Minneapolis, I warned them that this dip has no real nutritional value...but that was a lie. Everyone knows that corn is good for you, and corn and cheese eaten with corn chips are especially healthy. Anyway, once you taste this dip you might not care about nutrition, which is why we lightened it up with low-fat dairy ingredients and light corn chips.

Elote Dip (Creamy Mexican Corn Dip)


6 ears of corn in husks
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup light yogurt
1 tbsp Mexican-style hot sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup Cotija or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 bag of tortilla chips


Soak the ears of corn in water for 10 minutes, while heating the grill to medium temperature. Grill the corn, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until just tender. Allow to cool slightly then husk the corn, and cut the kernels off the cobs.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the corn, mayo, yogurt, hot sauce, lime juice, salt and pepper, and cheese. Heat until bubbly. Serve hot, garnished with the cilantro and cayenne.

Makes about 3 cups of dip.


Wild Berry Lavender Jam

>> Tuesday, July 15, 2014

blueberry and blackberry jam with lavender

Last weekend when Joe and I went for a walk in the woods, we found wild blackberry vines studded with fresh berries. I'd been out the week before collecting wildflowers, and I expected the berries would be ready soon. This time, I came to the nature preserve with a couple of plastic bags to bring home the fruit.

Wildflowers from the nature preserve - colored pencil drawing.

Thankfully, we were coated with a strong layer of insect repellent. The mosquitoes are fierce and heavy this summer; in some thickets we could hardly breathe through the fog of flying bugs. Nonetheless, the berries were delicious and worth the threat to life and limb.

Those we didn't eat immediately we stirred together with some blueberries and made this fragrant, floral-tinged jam.

Wild berry lavender jam


Juice of three limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup hot water
2 tsp powdered pectin
3 tablespoons lavender buds and leaves
4 cups fresh blackberries
4 cups fresh blueberries
4 cups sugar


In a large non-reactive saucepan, stir together the water, lime juice, and pectin.

Put the lavender, berries, and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until mixed but still slightly lumpy. Add to the saucepan and mix well. Bring the jam to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.

Check to see if the jam is setting by dropping a bit onto a plate and letting it cool for a few minutes. The jam is set when you can tilt the plate sideways and the jam does not slide off the plate.

Sterilize half-pint jars and lids. Heat water in a boiling-water canner until it is at a rolling boil. If you don't like seeds, strain the jam through cheesecloth before putting it in jars. Then fill sterilized jars with the fruit mixture, leaving 1/2" room from the rim. Wipe off the rims and screw down the lids until finger-tight.

Boil in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from boiler and cool on a towel. Tighten the lids before storing.

Makes about 8 half pint jars.

The Complete Guide to Food Preservation
You can find other canning and preserving recipes in my book, The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food

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