Purple Potato Salad: Just Because!

Purple potato salad!

Purple potato salad!

20150506_105900With weather warming up, it’ll soon be time for picnics, potlucks, and cookouts. If you want to really surprise people, make purple (actually more like lavender once it’s made up) potato salad! This is the same as my potato salad recipe, but since I’ve found purple potatoes in the store lately, I couldn’t resist using them to make up potato salad. It tastes just like my potato salad recipe, but such color! (I used new potatoes of the same or similar variety for Roasted New Potatoes Mediterranean Style.)

I cooked the potatoes the day before I made it up…and served it the day after that. Because I didn’t cook the potatoes at the same time as making it up, I left the green onion raw, rather than steaming it under the potatoes. Other than that, it’s the same as my usual recipe (click through above). I cooked the potatoes whole, with skins on (I’m lazy). They’re not much to look at until you cut into them! The dressing subdues the color quite a bit, but still, this is color is irresistable.

The color of the potatoes was so striking that I couldn’t resist snapping pics as I added in ingredients. This is the most fun I’ve ever had making potato salad. Impossible not to grin while mixing this up!

Green onions & celery brighten it even more

Green onions & celery brighten it even more

 

Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Like the bright colors? This will go well with my Frankenslaw!

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Dewberry Cobbler

Yum!

Yum!

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Dewberries!

Growing up, I ate wild dewberries (a relative of the blackberry) as fast as I picked them so there isn’t a family recipe for dewberry cobbler. I’m not sure if we ever picked enough to make a cobbler. Neither my mother or grandmother ever made any type of cobbler that I can recall (so much for my Southern heritage). By the time I married, my mother had discovered Bisquick so it’s possible she may have made something from a dough mix with some kind of fruit at some time— just not while I was around. So, my passes at making cobbler have been experimental, based my consumptions of fresh peach cobbler made by other people for church potlucks and other social gatherings. I never got anyone’s recipe because it’s just dough, fruit and spice…how hard can it be?

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Preheat oven 350.

I use about 3 pints of dewberrys (slightly more) and bake the cobbler in an 8″x 8″ non-stick pan. Gently rinse the berries in a colander. Pour them into the pan. The berries should come almost to the top of the pan.

The dewberries should come almost to the top of the 8"x8" pan.

The dewberries should come almost to the top of the 8″x8″ pan.

Sprinkle 3 Tbls flour over them, drizzle with honey (about 2-3 Tbls) and then sprinkle 2 tsps nutmeg over the berries. Stir carefully, just enough to mix up the ingredients a bit.

Flour, nutmeg, and honey...then stir carefully.

Flour, nutmeg, and honey…then stir carefully.

The flour is necessary for thickening once the berries cook down. They’re very juicy and omission of any kind of thickening agent will result in a sloshing pan of boiling berry juice. I add a bit of honey because wild dewberries are tarter than their domesticated cousin, the blackberry. If you’re making a cobbler using sweeter fruit you may be able to omit adding any type of sweetener.

Dough (to make the “cobbles”)

Cobbler is so-named because of the blobs of dough on top resemble the uneven cobbles of cobblestone streets. In short, neatness doesn’t count. 😉

1 cup – 1 ¼ cups flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls margarine
2/3  cup milk

The “cobbles” traditionally aren’t sweet. The idea is that when you eat it, you break the bits of bread up with your spoon and it soaks up the juice of the fruit. If you want more sugar, it won’t hurt to add a bit of sugar to the dry ingredients.

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in margarine until it’s pretty much homogenous. Stir in milk. It will form a wet sticky somewhat loose dough.

Drop dough by large spoonfuls on top of the berries in the pan. Don’t try to spread it for complete coverage. Think of the dough like it’s dumplings in a berry stew.

Drop sticky dough by large uneven spoonfuls on top.

Drop sticky dough by large uneven spoonfuls on top.

Bake 35 mins in 350 preheated oven — or until dough starts to brown.

The dough on top will help hold the heat in, and the cobbler will “set” a bit as it cools, so it’s best to leave it out on the counter for for 15 minutes before digging in.

Dewberry Cobbler, piping hot from the oven!

Dewberry Cobbler, piping hot from the oven!

Cobblers are juicy. They are best served in bowls. Especially dewberry cobbler. The fruit cooks to bits, so unless you add way too much flour for thickener, it will just run all over a plate.

Yum!

Yum!

Cobblers, particularly peach, are favorite desserts for dinner-on-the-grounds or summer cookouts, but they’re always runny and really aren’t suited to plates. If you must use disposable plates, styrofoam with a raised lip around the edge is best. Cobblers are often served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Another reason for serving in a bowl. 😀 If serving with Ice Cream and if you live within the distribution area for Bluebell Ice Cream, Natural Vanilla Bean would be my choice to go with this.

If you want to do something else with the berries…and have a toaster oven, you might want to try this easy fruit crumble. If you want to read more about my adventures picking and domesticating dewberries, check out the post I wrote last year on my author blog, Idleness.

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera with garlic pasta.

Pasta Primavera with garlic pasta.

This is a fast, easy, cold summer pasta salad. You can use any kind of pasta — and I know some people prefer to use all kinds of small shaped pasta for cold pasta salads — but for some reason I’ve always used fettuccine, perhaps because it’s most likely to come in assorted flavors and colors. I used to make this all the time many years ago, and I’m not sure why I stopped since it’s not like summers are any cooler. 😉 But it’s been so many years since I made it that when I was making up the grocery list, I had to stop and think hard about what vegetables I used to use. Honestly, all I can remember are tomatoes and peas, but I’m fairly sure it had squash of some sort as well. The original recipe probably had seasonings added, but I used Boyajian basil-flavored olive oil instead.

A language note: “primavera” means spring and often refers to sauteed spring vegetables. The only spring vegetable in it, however, are peas. If you want this to be a spring dish, you could substitute steamed or sauteed broccoli for the zucchini, but really I don’t know what spring vegetable would be a likely substitute for fresh tomatoes. They brighten the dish both in color and also flavor! When you start swapping out ingredients in dishes you’re going to change the character of the dish. Feel free to experiment with cool season veggies, but despite the name (which I got from the original half-remembered recipe), this is cold summer pasta dish.

1 pkg pasta of your choice (preferably flavored)
Cherry or grape tomatoes
1 12oz pkg frozen peas
4 zucchini or yellow squash
Olive oil, or flavored olive oil (such as Boyajian)

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While you’re waiting for the water to boil and cooking the pasta, slice and saute the squash in olive oil in a large skillet until just tender, but not falling apart. Zap peas in the microwave according to package instructions. (I use peas that are microwaved in the bag.)

Drain the pasta. Do not rinse! Cool in colander a little while.  Drizzle with olive oil. I prefer flavored oils with an olive oil base for this. Toss with squash, peas and tomatoes when it’s cooled enough not to partially cook them. I use a pair of tongs for this.

Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cool, 3-4 hours. (You can wait and top with the tomatoes at serving, but I prefer to toss them in earlier so they can pick up the flavored oil more.) If you’re going with Mediterranean flavors, as I prefer, and have some fresh basil on hand, you can toss some ripped up fresh basil leaves into the mix as well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving, if you wish. By the way…the peas do tend to sink a bit, so dig deep when tossing before serving, scooping down to the bottom of the bowl.

As a main dish, this would probably serve at least 5 people, as a side dish I can’t even guess…something just short of infinite. 😉

BBQ Baked Beans

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

It’s summertime: prime-time for cookouts, as well as picnics and potlucks. I’m kicking off the summer with a series of cookout-related posts. (Other bloggers may be doing other things, that’s part of the beauty of group blogs. Never a dull moment.) This recipe will put some zing in your next cookout. It was inspired by a recipe I saw some years ago, which I have changed so completely that it no longer resembles the original. To give you some idea how radically this has evolved: it was originally a very complicated meat main dish with exotic (and not very appetizing-sounding) ingredients. I’d made beans lots of times before, but never quite “BBQ baked beans” and as put off as I was when skimming the odd recipe, I thought that there were bits in there I could use to improve my rather lame attempts at “baked beans”. Many years and a gazillion changes later…I came up with this new totally vegetarian version. 🙂

Here’s something for you to think about when you’re adapting a recipe that calls for bacon “for flavor”: what really adds the flavor (to my way of thinking) isn’t the bacon, but the hickory smoke (or apple or mesquite, or whatever the current trendy tree is). The smoke lends a savoriness to whatever it’s added to. A little bit of liquid smoke can do the trick, depending on what the recipe is.  🙂 For something like this, which is associated so much with cookouts, liquid smoke is a nice touch. (Colgin liquid smoke comes in a number of different flavors: hickory, mesquite, apple, pecan.)

This is very spicy. If you want a milder version, use one jalapeno instead of two. I really wouldn’t recommend eliminating it altogether because the pepper — and the spiciness of it — is an essential feature of the dish. It’s supposed to be spicier than regular baked beans. 🙂

1 16oz pkg dried pinto beans (2 1/4 cups)
2 Tbls olive oil
2 med onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed (or diced)
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbls spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 tsp (or to taste) liquid smoke (I’m partial to mesquite, but have also used hickory.)

If you are taking this dish to a BBQ or potluck, you may want to double the recipe and use a disposable aluminum pan. I’ve found that the deep aluminum roasting pans work well, and are more or less necessary if you double the recipe (a good idea if you’re going to be feeding a crowd).

There’s different “timings” for making this. Some of the preparation needs to be done ahead of time, but how much prep you do the day ahead and how much on the day of serving is up to you. You can soak the beans the day before or the night before. Or you can soak them two days before, make the dish the day before and reheat it. Choose the timing that fits your schedule.

The day before you plan on serving the beans, soak the beans either all day or all night, covered in 3 times their volume of water. If you soak the beans during the day, in the evening drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate overnight. If you soak the beans overnight, then drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes the next day and continue on with making them.

Preheat oven 350.

If you’re starting with cold beans cooked the night before, bring the beans and liquid slowly to a simmer while chopping the veggies. Otherwise, chop the veggies while the beans are cooking.

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in olive oil, then add jalapenos and garlic. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, 1 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke (or to taste), along with some of the bean cooking liquid (about 1/2 cup).

Simmer sauce briefly, while transferring the beans with a slotted spoon to a 3 qt. casserole dish (or big disposable aluminum pan if you’ve doubled the recipe to take to a cookout). Pour sauce over beans. Stir well. Reserve the bean cooking water in case you need to add more liquid.

Put the casserole dish (or pan) in oven. Bake uncovered 45 minutes. If it looks like it’s cooking too dry, stir in a bit more of the reserved bean liquid. If it’s too moist, you can bake it longer.

I get regular requests to bring this to cookouts. It’s a sure-fire hit! 😀 Look for next Friday’s original cookout recipe: Frankenslaw!