Posts Tagged ‘recipe’



I have borne witness to an awful lot of handwringing lately.  Handwringing about the fighting in Gaza and the fact that a mob of Russian separatists can lay their mitts on enough firepower to shoot a commercial airliner out of the sky and about the fact that it is a good 10 degrees warmer here than usual (fossil fuels, hello) and about an Ebola outbreak moving faster than the speed of human intervention and about the fact that the world—the entire world—cannot seem to rescue nearly 200 beautiful school girls from a band of thugs.  And those are just the things I am handwringing—and lamenting and praying—about every day.  But the handwringing I am actually puzzled by is the handwringing about, yes, potato salad.

Over the past year, I have had the chance to learn a good deal about crowdfunding.  In fact I love crowdfunding.  I think it is an opportunity for us—the citizens (and by that I don’t mean citizens who are anointed by legal status but citizens inducted by heart and soul and action)—to say “Yes, in my back yard.  Please.” It is a chance for us to express preferences and push creative projects.  It is an amazing thing how $5 means a lot more to the powers-that-be than a signature on a petition.

But for the last few weeks, there has been drama in the crowdfunding world. In case you haven’t heard, a crazy character named Zack Danger Brown from Columbus, Ohio, persuaded nearly 7,000 citizens of the internet to give him $55,492 to make potato salad.  He was asking for $10.  (Favorite fact:  His middle name is Danger. Seriously.)  But in the civic crowdfunding world, this kicked off a whole lot of the aforementioned hand-wringing– “How can someone raise $55,000 for potato salad when there are [suffering children, homeless dogs, under-appreciated marmots].  Few of the campaigns to address these injustices raise anywhere near $55,000.  What is wrong with people?  Seriously, potato salad? Think of the children, the dogs, the marmots!” It is a symbol of all that is wrong with America.

Of course, they’re right.  But truth be told I find myself loving Zack and his potato salad, even if I’m afraid to say it in hand-wringing company.  Yes, I love the campaign for its pitch-perfect irony.  (“Will it change the world?” Head nod. “Probably.”) And I love it because it makes fun of Kickstarter and its rewards and its ducktailed hipsterness. And who doesn’t love that?

But really that’s more like a crush.  I love it because it invites us to something real, to something human.  I love it because its basic impulse is one of simplicity and nostalgia. It invokes grandmothers and church potlucks and bacon bits.  It is, as I keep telling people, a subversion of modernity.  It is the human hand versus the machine, recalling the central anxiety of the industrial and post-industrial age.

But I also think it runs deeper than that.  At the end of the day, even with all our crowd-funded empowerment, we suspect we can’t do a thing about neighbors bombing the living daylights out of each other or the suffering of children and animals. We fear it’s too late for the planet and for the cherished girls in the Nigerian forest.  We fear Ebola could wipe out entire continents while we watch in horror.

But we are pretty certain we can make potato salad.  Or at least that Zack Danger Brown can.  Or that he can try to make it with a huge smile on his face, and he can invite us to join in. We find solace in the fact that we can sustain one another with picnic food and laughter.  We are comforted by the simplicity, the ease, the hospitality.  We are relieved that we still locate sources of pleasure and generosity.  So, it is for those reasons that I love Zack Danger Brown, and it is for those reasons I can actually pause—for a moment—and stop wringing my hands.


p.s. – But here’s another confession: I loathe mayonnaise potato salad. I prefer a vinaigrette. My family, not that into potato salad either way.  But they’ll tolerate it once a year in honor of the birth of the nation. So here’s the recipe for my Independence Day Potato Salad:


Independence Day Potato Salad



1 sweet onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 small handfuls of tender green beans

8-10 new potatoes

a generous scoop of cherry tomatoes

½ cup of olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup of balsamic vinegar

Basil, oregano, salt & pepper to taste



Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil

Dice potatoes and boil until soft

Meanwhile, snip green beans and blanch for 2 minutes

In a splash of olive oil, cook onions until clear and soft

Add garlic and beans to onions;; sautee until gold but not brown

Drain potatoes and add to garlic/onion/bean mixture

Make vinaigrette with remaining olive oil, lemon, vinegar, and spices

Toss all ingredients in a bowl with fresh cherry tomatoes

Serve chilled or at room temperature


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The Power of Kale




For the past few months, we have eaten kale for basically every meal.  Mostly, we eat kale salad, which we fondly refer to as the magic salad.  We top it with baked miso tofu or sautéed shrimp, but most of the time, we just eat plain kale salad –finely chopped and massaged with a simple dressing that I cannot divulge here for fear that it will somehow lose its magic. (Maybe another day when I’m feeling more confident.)

Part of the reason we have become kaletarians is because we overwintered half our garden in kale, then put in a spring planting just to make sure.  But now we need that garden space for summer crops, so we are redoubling our efforts to consume the kale.  This morning, I pulled out the end of the kale (Well, nearly the end . . . I wanted to leave enough for one last magic salad.) and set to work making pesto.

Mostly, I used what we had in the house – walnuts mixed with a few pine nuts, garlic, lemons, olive oil, parmesan.  I tossed it all in the food processor and within a few minutes had seven jars of bright green garlicky pesto.

There is something tremendously empowering about scrounging through the pantry and transforming that which we babied along in the garden into something decadent and delicious to be eaten another day.

Around our house, we have recently discovered that one way to motivate teenagers to think about what they put in their mouths is to ask a simple question: Do you want corporations to decide what you eat?  Any amount of nattering on about nutrients or salt and fat content means nothing.  But the one thing teenagers loathe above all else is having someone else try to control them.  They don’t want their food-pious mother controlling them, for sure.  But almost worse than that is thinking that Nestle or Nabisco will decide what they can and can’t eat.


potTruth be told, I don’t really want General Mills bossing me around either. So I felt downright revolutionary as I pulled huge heads of kale right out the ground and dragged them—dirt and all—into the kitchen sink.  I rescued the slugs (I know. Bad idea.) and plunged it all straight into my big enamel pot.  It made me feel like Mother Jones or Rosie the Riveter.

I don’t think I am some kind of freedom fighter of the kitchen or that I am going to destabilize Nabisco’s business model with my magic kale salad, but if the apocalypse comes, at least I have seven jars of kale pesto tucked away in my freezer. For an hour, I had control over what I am feeding myself and my family. I felt empowered and capable and slightly less passive in the face of the corporate titans. And at very least, I got that kale out of the garden and made way for the subversive song of the summer squash.


Thumbing Your Nose at Nestle Kale Pesto

1.Pull out whatever kale you have left in your garden or buy it at the farmer’s market.  It takes a solid two bunches to make it worth your while. Wash it well and pull off the toughest parts of the stems. Make your own decision about the slugs. Rough chop the kale

2. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and blanch the kale for one minute.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Dry and press out all the excess water.  Dry again.

3. Meanwhile, toast a cookie sheet full of walnuts or pinenuts or whatever you have in the pantry.  Cool and rough chop them, too.

4. Toss as many garlic cloves as you can handle, two handfuls of shredded parmesan, the juice of one or two lemons, the kale, and the nuts into your food process.  Douse liberally with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

5. Run food processor until the pesto is as coarse or fine as you like it.

6. Scrape into jars and freeze.

7. Wait for the apocalypse.


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