Not a Boring Potato Salad

Not a potato salad at all. Not a pasta salad either (though adding pasta would be delicious). During BBQ season it’s often difficut to decide what to bring along. Inevitably, there end up being multiple potato salads in every spread. Don’t be the person who brings the potato salad. And despite my serious love of mayo, don’t bring anything that’s going to sit out for hours that has mayo as a base. Plus barbecued meat while delicious doesn’t really need unhealthy sides. 

My latest go to is this quick, easy, and pretty, pea and asparagus salad. I run about two bags of snap peas, a bunch of asparagus with woody ends removed, and four scallions through the slicing blade of a food processor. Toss it in a vinaigrette made of Lambrusco vinegar (we’re lucky to live near an oil and vinegar shop but any sweet vinegar would be fine) and olive oil. I also add pickled samphire, pickled onions, and pickled ramps (all optional but pickled onions are so easy to make and so versatile that you should always have some on hand)  I bring along a jar of fresh homemade ricotta mixed with basil to dollop on top if people want (without the cheese  it’s vegan which is an added bonus and adding the cheese to individual servings works better anyway). 

I recently (accidentally) even grew some edible flowers which add a certain flair. 


Instant Pot Pork Shoulder

Puerco al horno (slow oven roasted pork) is one of my favorite dishes. But on a 90 degree day it’s not a good option no matter how much you’re craving it. Enter the Instant Pot.

The smart electronic slow cooker is far from the deathly rattling stovetop version my grandmother used. It’s fabulous for cooking all sorts of things quickly (no more hours of boiling for whole grains and dried beans and fast bone broth alone makes it worth the money). I’ve even seen a Facebook post on which a friend used it to make a cheesecake.

Anyway, back to the pork. I made a simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, tangerine juice, garlic, and cilantro stems blended in the vitamix. I covered the meat (pork shoulder cut into 2 inch cubes) and let is sit for about 4 hours. I pored everything g into the Instant Pot with a bit of water (I would omit the water next time) and set it for 25 minutes. When it was done I reduced the sauce and broiled the meat. And there you have it – day long tender oven roasted pork in no time at all. Served with beans and rice and a watermelon salad it made for a pretty nice (and not expensive) dinner party – I don’t think it was even obvious that I’d returned from vacation at midnight the very same day!



Weeknight Pasta

I often make pasta amatriciana. I also often make Martha Stewart’s one pot pasta ( Earlier this week the two came together. Let me be clear this is nothing like an authentic ammatriciana – Italians would probably have apoplectic fits; it is however, delicious. It also requires a bit of pre-planning.

I always try to have some of the Serious Eats long cooked sauce on hand ( On this day I also had some Parmesean broth in the fridge (cooked in a pressure cooker like a regular broth but with Parmesean rinds). You don’t need either of these items (water and canned smashed San Marzano tomatoes will be plenty good; but this is certainly better).

To start cook some guanciale in a pan until crisp (see I told you not authentic- Italians look away). Once it’s crisp remove it to a paper towel lined plate and cook some sliced onions (I mean like 3 onions) in the rendered fat with a Calabrian chili.

Once softened add some garlic, dry spaghetti (I like the bionature organic brand), a bit of sauce, and Parmesean broth.

Cook it almost like risotto. Adding more liquid and sauce slowly as needed until the pasta is done. You will end up with super flavorful pasta with a seriously silky sauce.

Chop the Calabrian chili add it to the pasta with some basil and toss with Romano cheese(the only authentic bit) and top with crunchy guanciale and a bit more basil (Italians look away again).

Umami Bomb

It has been rather a long time since I’ve written anything. Things have been hectic and busy. But writing about the cooking adventures is half the fun. So time to get back in the saddle! And what better motivation than samphire. I love this stuff:

Long story short, I finally found some in DC! I bought all of it. But a woman can only eat so much sea foliage in one day. What to do? Make pickles!


I made a simple pickling vinegar and then stuffed a bunch of jars with aromatics and samphire, asparagus, and onions and poured it over. Ice bath. Fridge. In a week I will let you know how they come out. I had never pickled samphire before but it seems like a pretty great idea. For the onions I made three varieties a regular one with Calabrian chili, garlic and peppercorns; one to which I also added lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, and galangal; and an Indian one with fresh turmeric and whole masala spices. I plan to use the Thai one on BBQ pork neck and the Indian one on tandoori lamb.

Then of course there had to be a fresh preparation. I cooked barley in Parmesan broth and made an asparagus and pea pesto.

It was pretty much spring in a jar.


Mixed together and topped with butter roasted white fish and garnished with samphire, asparagus, and tobiko it was a sort of fancy restaurant type meal at home. And oh the umami! The combination of Parmesean, samphire, butter, and roe almost seemed like it would be overkill. But since I didn’t add much salt it worked out delightfully. Funny how motivating a little seaweed can be!


Sushi Ota, San Diego 

The Sushi Ota website says that Ota San came from Japan to San Diego and  stayed because the uni was so good. Somehow we didn’t order the uni. But I’m glad the place that I thought had the best sushi in SD when I was 22 still lives up. Both the food and the very Japanese service are to die for.  

 Salmon, o-toro, and hiramasa. 


 Salmon belly

   Japanese surf and turf. Fried shrimp heads and wagyu sashimi. A fabulous ending to a wonderful meal. 

Spring is in the Air

No it’s not. It’s frigid out. Even though the crocuses are in bloom and the tulips and daffodils are starting to poke out of the ground, winter refuses to leave. Nonetheless, because I believe in the power of positive thinking I made a downright springy farro “risotto” with peas and spring herbs (chives, tarragon, and basil) for dinner tonight. What’s more with a little weekend prep this can be a 30 minute weeknight meal. Sous Vide the pork (and then just reheat it in the sous vide machine the day you want to eat it). Boil the farro (in stock if you have some) on the weekend as well. When you’re ready to eat sautee some shallots or scallions in butter, add the peas and cook until just short of tender crisp, throw in some minced garlic and your cooked farro and heat until warm. Finish with herbs, parmesean cheese, and a splash of cream. Sear the pork chops. Eat dinner.