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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave. I bought it because it’s about Sebastapol, a cute little town in California wine country, in Sonoma County, although it’s on the fringes of the more mainstream wineries. A daughter of a friend of mine recently moved there, and when I visited her a few months ago, I was charmed by the cute downtown and the small village feel to it. Anyway, although the backdrop of the entire book is about the winery, the wines, the fields, the processes of wine making, it’s more about the family relationships. It seems that everyone (mom, dad, 2 sons, wife of one, a daughter [who is the protagonist] and her fiance and his ex-girlfriend) is in the midst of extreme turmoil. I swear, when I think about authors as they toil away in their aeries writing, they compile a big long list on a huge whiteboard of all the different awful things (divorce, affairs, fistfights, love lost, love gained, screaming and yelling, public drunkenness) they can make happen in one book and they pick and choose, yet make every effort to pack in as many of them as they can. No one in this family is immune from high levels of emotion and action or acting out about something or many things. I enjoyed the book despite those character flaws which occur on nearly every page. You have compassion for each one of them. Yet they’re a close family nonetheless. I haven’t read any of Laura Dave’s other books, but I suspect this one will be a winner. It’s not on any best-seller lists, but amongst book club readers, I believe it’s a strong contender.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

You may have heard about this woman, Marina Chapman . . . she was kidnapped at about age 4 in Columbia. She was eventually discarded in the jungle. This, just a few days after her capture. No humans. No help. She learned to survive in the jungle and was taken in by a large Capuchin monkey family. She had no language, much, except sounds she learned amongst the monkeys. She lived for some years in the jungle, all alone. Eventually she saw some humans and followed them, was made a slave. Terribly treated, nearly starved, and was being primed as a prostitute, but she escaped that too. Her story is harrowing, and yet uplifting. She did escape eventually, in her mid-teens and grew up from there with a kind, loving family in Bogota. Her adult daughter helped her to write the stories – most of which she wanted to forget. The book is The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman and Lynne Barrett-Lee. National Geographic highlighted her story awhile back, and she appeared on some morning TV shows when the book came out in 2014. The author is writing a sequel, about Chapman’s life after she was rescued. I’ll be watching for that as this book leaves you hanging – only knowing that she was rescued and went to Bogota.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, certainly not on everyone’s radar – Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada. It’s about an angry young Palestinian. He felt wronged; he felt despised; his father didn’t understand him. He escaped his family’s plan for his life and became a PLO sniper. He killed many people. He killed Israelis and was elated. He was sent to the United States and big plans were in store for him, he thought. And then he discovered a new life as a Christian. It didn’t happen overnight, and he had many questions along the way. His family disowned him, yet he persevered. He met an American woman, married her, and had children. And he became an activist for change. It’s a fascinating story. He now speaks around the world, for peace and understanding about the Palestinian problem(s). It’s quite a book, and I’m glad I read it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on May 19th, 2010.

A week or so ago I watched the chefs at America’s Test Kitchen prepare an Austrian type potato salad. It has not even a whiff of mayonnaise in it. No hard boiled eggs. No celery. It does have red onion, cornichons (those little French pickles – I used kosher dills) and a light oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard dressing with some chives too. It’s easy. And it’s delicious! We were barbecuing red bell peppers and Italian sausages (I know, it should have been something like Kielbasa or Polish Sausage, but that’s what I’d defrosted). I thought this potato dish just sounded like a perfect marriage.

Yukon Gold potatoes are peeled, quartered and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces. They’re put into a wide skillet (that has a lid) with a bit of water and chicken broth, salt, a little tiny amount of sugar and some white wine vinegar. The potatoes get cooked through, and you use the little bit of liquid remaining in the pan as part of the dressing – it’s mixed with Dijon, oil and more vinegar, and a little bit of cooked potatoes mashed up, then it’s tossed with the hot potatoes, along with some finely diced red onion, some chives, and the minced pickles. It’s seasoned well with salt and pepper and you’re done. How easy is that?

These potatoes are supposed to be eaten within a few hours of making the salad/side dish. Don’t refrigerate it, as it changes the consistency of the mixture. The folks at ATK said serve it within 4 hours. So, you can just leave it out (covered) once it’s made. They tried many different kinds of potatoes for this, and found Yukon gold by far the best. As it happened, I had Russets, but next time I’ll make it with Yukon. I thought the salad was scrumptious. It comes together quickly – you could do some of the work ahead, even. And sitting for an hour or two likely enhances the flavor. Be sure to taste it for more salt and/or pepper. I thought it took a lot of salt to make it just right to suit me. And I’m always very heavy-handed with the pepper anyway. I’d definitely make this again! And it’s no wonder the Austrians and Germans have a great reputation when it comes to potatoes. They know a thing or two about how to prepare them. A mayo-based dressing would have ruined this combo.

And, by the way, if you haven’t looked at the America’s Test Kitchen website lately, they’ve completely revamped it, and have ALL the recipes going back as long as they’ve been producing the TV show. That is SUCH an improvement. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’d watch a segment, go online to try to find it, only to not find the recipe. I contacted them by email and they told me that different regions of the country broadcast the shows at different times (sometimes a year later!) so the recipes were long gone. No more, with the new website! Thank you, ATK.
printer-friendly CutePDF
Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

Austrian Style Potato Salad

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 8
NOTES: The finished salad should be creamy and loose, with chunks of potato that keep their shape but are very tender. To maintain its consistency, don’t refrigerate the salad; it should be served within 4 hours of preparation. The salad takes more salt than you might think.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes — (about 4 large) peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small red onion — chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
6 cornichons — minced (about 2 tablespoons) (or kosher dills)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
ground black pepper to taste

1. Bring potatoes, broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar to a boil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with paring knife, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce), and cook 2 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes in colander set over large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Set drained potatoes aside. Pour off and discard all but ½ cup cooking liquid (if ½ cup liquid does not remain, add water to make ½ cup). Whisk remaining tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.
3. Add ½ cup cooked potatoes to bowl with cooking liquid mixture and mash with potato masher or fork until thick sauce forms (mixture will be slightly chunky). Add remaining potatoes, onion, cornichons, and chives, folding gently with rubber spatula to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 179 Calories; 7g Fat (35.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 127mg Sodium.

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  1. Shellie McKinley

    said on October 6th, 2011:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I saw that same episode of America’s Test Kitchen and immediately set about to make this potato salad. Although it was absolutely wonderful, I misplaced the recipe. I desperately tried to recreate it from memory but it was never quite the same – until now. I just put the finishing touches on my Austrian style potato salad and the results are heavenly. I have never left a comment on anyone’s page, but I found your blog so nicely written, informative, and entertaining, I had to tell you, “job well done.”
    Gee whiz, thank you! Hope you come back to visit again! . . . Carolyn t

  2. Janet

    said on May 23rd, 2012:

    I agree with the previous posting only this will be my first time making it.

  3. Cook

    said on July 1st, 2012:

    Thank you! I’m so glad that you posted this. I remember eating several potato salads like this in Bavaria and Austria years ago but I’ve never been able to make anything even remotely close. An a resounding YES for the no mayo, egg, celery routine! It is about the potatoes, a robust vinegar presence and a bland oil for lubrication. You made my day – and I just happen to have some YG potatoes. Thanks!

    Gosh, you’re SO welcome. Am glad I made it too. Lots of people seem to like this style potato salad as I’ve had oodles of comments or emails from people about it. . . carolyn t

  4. Adam Hartley

    said on February 22nd, 2013:

    Heading out to buy the ingredients now…

    This recipe seems to be one of the most popular recipes on my blog! Hope you enjoy the salad. . . carolyn t

  5. MissFoodFairy

    said on July 1st, 2013:

    Thank you for sharing this potato salad. It’s certainly a nice change from my potato salad, where I use bacon, mayonnaise, sour cream and springs onions! This went perfectly with the Wiener schnitzel I made for dinner tonight!

    Oh, I’m so glad! I’ve had a number of people come to my blog because of this recipe – it must come up from search engines on the recipe title, I suppose, since this style potato salad IS so different. . . carolyn t

  6. Texas Farmer

    said on September 29th, 2013:

    Chris Kimble’s and his American Kitchen may disapprove but I like and use 1:1 EVO and grape seed oil. I also add some sweet red ripe Hungarian peppers. No Gerkins, Chornichons only and garden grown Austrian fingerlings for potatoes. All Veggies should be fresh out of your garden. Thanks for posting the basics.

    Those sound like very good suggestions! .. . carolyn t

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