With summer on the horizon, it’s time to think about potato salad

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

At a national potato salad contest I judged last summer, every entrant claimed to have the “best” recipe. After sampling more varieties than I can remember, I came to the obvious conclusion that taste is truly a matter of personal opinion.

I couldn’t enter either of my potato salads into that contest but I still think either of these “coulda been a contender.” One has all the components of classic American potato salad with a little pizzazz. The secret ingredient is celery seed. This salad is creamy, mustardy and even includes chopped hard-boiled eggs. Make sure to keep the salad chilled at all times to avoid any health problems.

My other recipe is a zesty, tomato-vinaigrette-dressed potato salad that has no dairy in it, so you can serve it at an outside gathering without worrying about leaving it in the sun. It is also perfect for those allergic to dairy. Much of the flavor comes from the sun-dried tomato pesto, balsamic vinegar and capers.

I prefer unpeeled potatoes for potato salad because they add color (not to mention it saves time in the kitchen). Scrub them well since there can be dirt on them.

Diane’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

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Serves 6-8

3 pounds medium red rose or bliss, tan-skinned or yellow (Yukon Gold) potatoes


3/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 teaspoons celery seed

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon grainy mustard

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.
2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes for 30 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. Do not peel. Cut into 2-inch chunks and place in a medium bowl.

3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, celery, scallions, celery seed, parsley, chopped egg, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Pour mixture over potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to one day ahead.

5. To serve, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve cold.

Advance preparation: Can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Caper Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8


1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons store-bought Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

2 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup olive oil

3 pounds small potatoes such as creamers or fingerlings, unpeeled

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for the garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, mustard, tomato pesto, capers, salt, pepper and parsley. Whisk well to combine. Slowly stream in the olive oil, while whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Set aside.

2. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.

3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook potatoes about 20 to 25 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a medium bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning.

4. Transfer into a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours. Take out of the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Advance preparation: This can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Make sure to remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Taste for seasoning.

Passover White Fish Terrine

This modern take on gefilte fish is a hit on my Passover table year after year.

This modern take on gefilte fish is a hit on my Passover table year after year.

Whitefish Terrine with Beet-Horseradish Relish

Ground whitefish is used here as in the popular Jewish dish gefilte fish, and is often available in supermarkets and fish markets during Jewish holidays. If you can’t find the fish ground, process the filets in the food processor, making sure to remove the skin and all the bones. (You’ll need to buy about 2 1/4 pounds whitefish filets with the skin on if you are going to grind it yourself. Remove the skin before processing.) The accompanying bright red beet-horseradish relish adds a burst of color and flavor to the chilled terrine. This terrine can be served in overlapping slices either on individual plates or on a large platter with crisp crackers, matzo or thinly sliced pumpernickel bread. Pass the colorful horseradish relish separately.

Serves 10-12

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 large eggs

3 1/2 tablespoons matzo meal

3/4 cup chicken stock (or fish stock or water)

1 1/2 pounds ground whitefish or a mixture of whitefish, pike and buffalo fish

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 lime, freshly squeezed

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 (5-ounce) jar prepared horseradish cream

2  cooked beets

lemon slices and parsley sprigs for garnish

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet and sauté carrots and onion over medium heat until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly coat a large (9 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch) loaf pan with cooking spray.
  1. Beat the eggs with the matzo meal in a large bowl with an electric mixer. When well-combined, add the broth, fish, cooled carrots and onions, salt, pepper and sugar and continue to beat until well blended.
  1. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Pick up pan with both hands and slam down on counter to settle any air bubbles. Squeeze the lime juice over the top, sprinkle with paprika and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a long wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  1. Meanwhile, place the horseradish cream and roasted beet in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until pureed. Transfer to a small container and refrigerate.
  1. Remove terrine from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Wrap in foil and chill overnight.
  1. Remove the loaf from the pan, place on a platter, and serve garnished with lemon slices and parsley, accompanied by the horseradish-beet cream.

Advance Preparation: Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.

Make Crispy Duck Breast for your Valentine

Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce


Valentines Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants. For me, it is a time to enjoy a lovely meal at home with good friends. I can’t think of a better dish to serve than crispy duck breasts. Easy to prepare for a novice cook, duck breasts are the best combination of a crispy duckling and the meatiness of a good steak.


Cooking duck breasts used to intimidate me. I am not sure why but I am glad I finally tried cooking them. The key to their crisp skin is letting the skin dry out overnight in the refrigerator. Quick to put together and much less messy than roasting a whole duck, duck breasts are a perfect main course for a small dinner party.


You can gather in the kitchen as you cook them up. This will serve 4 to 6 depending upon how large the duck breasts are and how big your guest’s appetites are. If you just want dinner for two, you can halve the amount of duck breasts, but I would make the whole sauce amount in this recipe. If you’re wondering why, my philosophy is you can never have too much sauce! Try to find fresh duck breasts because the frozen variety tend to become rubbery. Muscovy or Hudson Valley ducks are preferred.


For Valentines dinner pair the duck with herbed rice or orzo pasta. The sweet red cherry sauce is a vibrant contrast to the crispy brown skin. Bright green broccoli spears completes the menu. I vote for an Oregon Pinot Noir to drink. For dessert, anything chocolate, of course, and maybe a Late Harvest Dessert wine to cap off the evening with sweet thoughts.


Crispy Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce


Serves 4 to 6

Remember to start this one day ahead of serving.


4 (¾-1 pound) boned duck breast halves with the skin left on

2 tablespoons unsalted butter



3 medium shallots, minced

3/4 cup veal or duck stock

1 ½ tablespoons orange honey

3 tablespoons Tawny port

3/4 cup fresh pitted Bing cherries (you can use frozen, if fresh is not available)

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pound the duck halves between two pieces of wax paper with a heavy pan or a mallet to even out the thickness. Score the duck breasts with a very sharp knife by cutting crisscross lines on the skin, making sure not to cut into the duck meat. Place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with wax paper. Refrigerate overnight to allow the skin to dry out for a crispy end result.



  1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet, large enough to fit the four halves, on medium-high. Sauté the duck breasts, skin side down for about 5-7 minutes or until the skin is very crisp and nicely browned. Turn over and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the duck breasts are medium rare. Remove and place on a wood carving platter and loosely cover. (If you prefer medium, cook another 2 minutes on the second side). Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.



  1. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings and sauté the shallots for a minute or until softened, stirring the brown bits up. Add the stock, honey, port and cherries and increase the heat to high. Reduce the mixture to a light glaze, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the 1 ½ tablespoons butter to thicken and add sheen to the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. Slice the duck breasts thinly on the diagonal and arrange on serving plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve immediately.



Advance Preparation: May be prepared through step 1 up to one day ahead and refrigerated.

Chef’s Salad

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  • 2 heads of butter lettuce, pale inner leaves only, washed and dried
  • 13 pound honey-baked ham, cut into julienne
  • 13 pound smoked chicken or roast turkey, cut into julienne
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack or Swiss cheese, cut into julienne
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a large salad serving bowl, arrange the leaves of the butter lettuce, tearing the larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Arrange the ham, smoked chicken and cheese on top of the lettuce. You can keep each ingredient separate from the others or jumble them all together. The julienne strips could radiate outward from the center of the salad like the spokes of a wheel. Place the wedges of cherry tomato and hard-boiled egg among the main ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper until well-blended. While continuously whisking the dressing, drizzle in the oil, and continue whisking for another 10 to 20 seconds until emulsified.
  3. The salad should be served with the dressing on the side, then dressed and tossed at the table.

Makes 4 servings.

Chilled Artichoke Halves with Two Sauces


  • 3 large globe artichokes
  • Water
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Cut the sharp points off the artichoke leaves with kitchen shears. Remove the small, dry outer leaves from around the base of the artichoke. Cut off the stem 1 inch from the bottom of each artichoke.
  2. Soak the artichokes in cold water for at least 15 minutes to clean them.
  3. Place the artichokes upright in a large pan with about 4 inches of water, lemon slices and olive oil. Cook them on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, partially covered, or until the leaves pull off easily. Bring the artichokes to room temperature and then cut them in half.
  4. Scoop out the choke of the artichoke with a teaspoon and discard it. Place the artichokes in the refrigerator. Just before serving, arrange the halves on serving plates and spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce into each half.


Here are two sauces that can be used on the artichoke. They are NOT meant to be used together.

Summer Vinaigrette


  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 12 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, basil, chives and parsley. Whisk to combine and slowly add the oil until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the vinaigrette in a tightly covered container and refrigerate. Remove it a half hour before serving to thin the dressing.

Red Pepper Aioli


  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped medium sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until they are pureed. Add the red pepper and process until it is well-blended. Add the mayonnaise and process. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne, and taste for seasoning.
  2. Refrigerate the sauce until serving time.

Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Flank Steak with Smoky Salsa



  • 1 cup Smoky Salsa (see below)
  • 1 cup full-bodied beer
  • 1-2 pound flank steak


  1. Combine 1/2 cup of the salsa and 3/4 cup of the beer in a medium mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Flatten out the flank steak in a shallow, large nonaluminum dish. Pour the marinade over it and marinate for 2 to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator; the longer, the more tender.
  2. In a small serving bowl, combine the remaining salsa and beer for the sauce and mix together. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Prepare a barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill it 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for a medium-rare. Place on a carving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to 1 day ahead through step 2 and refrigerated.

Smoky Salsa


  • 5 large Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/3 medium bunch of cilantro, bottom stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon canned chipotle peppers
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock


  1. Prepare a barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling. Grill the tomatoes, onion slices and scallions until partially charred, turning occasionally. The red onions will take the longest. Transfer to a plate. Grill the cilantro for about 30 seconds, just to wilt and give off a slight smoky flavor.
  2. With the motor running, add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until pureed. Add the grilled vegetables and remaining ingredients and process until all the vegetables are pureed. Taste for seasoning. (For a thinner consistency, add more chicken stock.) Serve with chips and guacamole or as a condiment for grilled chicken or meat.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to one week ahead, covered tightly and refrigerated.

Makes 4 to 6.

Corn and Tomato Soup



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped, about 2 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears), cobs reserved and cut in half
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup croutons
  • 1/4 cup sour cream


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes; cook until slightly softened, 3 minutes. Add the flour; stir until flour dissolves. Cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the corn kernels, basil leaves, tomato paste, chicken stock and corncobs. Heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 25 minutes. Remove the corncobs and discard.
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or food processor. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve, garnished with croutons, a dollop of sour cream and a basil sprig.

Makes 4 servings