How to Be a Great Cook without Really Trying & Grilled Potato Salad

beach chairs on pleasant lake_ACGotcha! You thought I’d be giving you a bunch of hacks to whip up a chef-worthy meal in thirty minutes. Nope, I’m just reeling you in with a bait and switch. Truth is, like most skills, cooking takes at least a modicum of time and effort. Yes, you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket or sauce in a jar and whip either or both into any number of concoctions. However, they will still taste like supermarket chicken and jar sauce.

That said, summer is coming and the beach is calling. Most people, including me, are looking for shortcuts to get them in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. Our northern New England summers are short, we don’t want to waste a minute of it indoors. Complicated cooking is fine when it’s cold and dark at three o’clock in the afternoon but not when temperatures soar and the days are long.

So, how can you enjoy a delicious summer with only sort of trying?

Whether you’re getting together for a special celebration or just another Saturday night, your quick and easy dinner demands a grill. Buy a great steak or piece of fish, drizzle it with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. And for those more casual occasions? Heck, everybody looks forward to a good hot dog or hamburger now and then.

But that’s just the start to a terrific summer meal. One or two fabulous side dishes can make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Yes, you heard me; sides can make all the difference. Sure, it’s tempting to stop by the deli counter and pick up a pound of potato salad. Only trouble is – knows when and where that potato salad was made. It’s not so much a safety issue. The store is bound to have plenty of safeguards in place. No, it’s a matter of taste. I bet that your homemade spuds are tastier by a factor of ten. No, wait; make that one hundred or a thousand!

Same goes for pasta salads, coleslaw and anything else you want to throw in a bowl. Fresh ingredients tossed with your delicious vinaigrettes or drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar are bound to taste better. An added plus, hearty potato and pasta salads and slaws can be thrown together in the morning, leaving you the rest of the day to play.

Anything last minute must be quick as well as delicious. To accomplish both, use great ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Slice heirloom tomatoes and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar for a superb last minute dish. Want something green? Arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of parmesan is wonderfully easy. If you want to get a little fancy, grill asparagus and scallions and serve them warm on a bed of greens.

Now, what about dessert? You can follow my mother’s lead and bake brownies first thing in the morning. Or, just as delicious and better for you, pile perfectly ripe fruit in a bowl and let everyone help themselves. For particularly hot nights, there is nothing like ice cream. Make sure you have a jar of your favorite chocolate sauce on hand.

Have a simply delicious summer. Bon appétit!

Grilled Potato Salad
Make this potato salad in the morning and it will have plenty of time to mix and meld in the refrigerator while you play in the sunshine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion, chopped
1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
About 2 pounds medium potatoes, red or Yukon gold, halved
Olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers

Make the vinaigrette: put the mustard, garlic and onion in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, add extra virgin olive oil to taste and process until smooth.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium high. Brush or toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes cut side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes have nice grill marks. Turn the potatoes and, either turn down the grill to low or transfer the spuds to a cooler part of the grill. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and cut into 1-2 bite pieces. Workingrilled_potato_salad_01g quickly, put the still-warm potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, drizzle with vinaigrette to lightly coat and gently toss. Tossing from time to time, cool to room temperature.

When the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, sprinkle with scallions and capers, add more vinaigrette if necessary and toss again.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Cover and store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator as well.

Serve the potato salad at room temperature.

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Five Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Six Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your best advice for the class of 2016? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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