For the past few years, Mr TBTAM and I have hosted my Choral group’s annual end-of-season party. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I take off work and spend the day cooking, with NPR and the dog for company, and the sun streaming in my kitchen window.
This year, I made Irene’s chicken with Pauls’ barbecue sauce and a quartet of salads. The group supplemented with wine, appetizers, desserts and more side dishes. Usually we eat on the roof, but the weather was cooler than we expected, so we only did drinks and appetizers upstairs, then dinner downstairs. After dinner, we listened to a recording of our recent concert at Lincoln Center. Was that beautiful singing really us?
Thanks to Martin Rutishauser, our choral director, for an amazing season and for what was for most of us, the opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to sing at Lincoln Center. And thanks to all my friends in the chorus for another great year of music and friendship.
A Quartet of Salads
All four of these salads can be made ahead, and make a great addition to any party plate.
Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
This recipe is straight from Epicurious, and one of the best potato salads I’ve ever had. There are so many flavorful herbs that I think one could get away with non-fat mayo in this recipe and no one would be able to tell.
3 pounds baby red potatoes
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
11/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Bring potatoes to boil in large pot of water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.
Cut potatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Place 1 layer of potatoes in large bowl; sprinkle with some of vinegar and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add all remaining ingredients; toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Cucumber Salad (Sorry, no photo)
This is a family standard that Mr TBTAM usually makes, but I did it myself this time.
6 large cucumbers
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Fresh dill (optional)
Peel cucumbers, slice lengthwise and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds. Then slice crosswise into thin slices using a knife or, if you have it, a mandolin. Slice the onion into think slices and then in half across so they are not too long. Mix together in a large Pyrex bowl.
Meanwhile, mix vinegar and water in a medium saucepan, add sugar and bring to a boil. Cool slightly and then pour over cucumbers and onions and mix gently. Salt and pepper. Cover and place in fridge overnight.
Best made a day ahead.
Rice and Lentil Salad ala’ Ottolenghi
I substituted an Indian rice and lentil blend called Delhi Durhbar for the wild rice. You could use really any lentil or rice mixturein this salad. The original recipe also calls for fresh rocket, an herb that I could not find. So I used an herbal salad green mix from Gourmet Garage instead.
1 cup Delhi Dunbar mix
2-3 ounces by weight peeled dry roasted pistachios
5 ounces by weight soft dried apricot, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
1 small bunch of mint, leaves picked
2 cos, loosely packed mixed mesclun salad herbs
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the rice and lentils according to directions. Coarsely chop the pistachios with a large knife. Drain the apricot and coarsely chop them too.
In a bowl mix the rice, apricots and pistachios. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Another recipe modified from Ottolenghi. I increased the proportion of beans to onions, substituted basil for chervil and plated it on a bed of baby spinach.
1 lb trimmed French beans
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoon tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tbsp basil (or parsely or chervil or dill)
1/2 bag cleaned baby spinach leaves
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
To make the vinaigrette, put the mustard, garlic and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking until you get a thick dressing. Taste and season.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Refresh and drain.
Arrange the spinach leaves on a large platter or flat bowl. Mix the beans with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette and pile onto spinach. Serve.