I love a thrift store.
It’s like wandering into Aladdin’s cave. Sometimes that cave is empty and smells funny.
But sometimes …
Sometimes that darn cave is chock-full of the most wondrous things you ever did see. I have found designer bags, brand new, brand name clothing, kitchen stuff, and furniture (I’ve never been brave enough to buy upholstered furniture because I have an irrational fear of bedbugs; you should travel with me — I’m a twitchy girl in a hotel room until I can give it a thorough inspection).
One of my favorite things to look for is old Corning ware. My mom has some very old bowls that came from her mom, and I guess I have the bug.
Those square white bowls?
I have just about every size you can imagine — even round ones. I have the blue flowers that are the ubiquitous decoration, and other floral motifs from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and the aughts.
But my favorite piece is a mid-century divided serving dish in that kind Pepto-pink that was so popular in the 1950s. I’m sure it came from some grandmother’s kitchen when she downsized. I think I paid $6 for it. Etsy has one with a lid for $54 and Amazon is selling one without lid for $99.96.
Anyway, I used it tonight.
Lately, Petey and I have been having potato salad for dinner on Sundays, as a side, but left to my own devices …
And The Kid came over for dinner tonight.
So, I made potato salad.
The Kid dislikes onions but likes potato salad with a ton of lemon and capers. Petey is not a fan of capers or lots of lemon. Sometimes I make two potato salads so everybody gets what they like.
But we do have one type that we all enjoy.
Merritt’s in Chapel Hill is known far and wide for two things; their grilled cheese sandwiches and the fact that it’s where James Taylor got his start. They also make a delicious potato salad — they put peas and carrots in it. Sounds kind of odd, but it works.
Scrolling through potato salad recipes online one day, I found one that called for horseradish. We all like horseradish.
I was inspired to combine the two versions into one epic potato salad. Instead of onions, I use shallots, which The Kid is OK with.
So, the colorful co-star from lunch trays everywhere and the condiment that brings the one type of heat I can not only endure but welcome, came together to make the one potato salad that the whole family loves.
Last time we had dinner together, I made a proto-preparation of baby bok choy. The adult version of this Chinese vegetable is what you’ll find chopped up in your moo goo gai pan. The baby version is terrific roasted, but a little bitter for most folks.
So, I decided to try to use the acid and sweetness of lemon to cut the bitterness a wee bit.
It worked. It’s kind of an unusual vegetable for many of us, but if you’re not up for that, you can use the lemon trick to cut the bitterness of something like broccoli or dark greens.
Everything was really tasty. When The Kid was leaving I offered to box up some leftovers, like I always do.
Then I remembered. We didn’t have any.
Thanks for your time.
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Garden Horsey Potato Salad
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 large), boiled ‘til fork tender
3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, quickly blanched (2-3 minutes) in boiling salted water and shocked in ice water to stop cooking and set color, then drained very well
1 large shallot, diced
Kosher salt & freshly cracked pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Splash of malt vinegar
2 cups mayonnaise
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (or more if you like it that way)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
A few hours before assembling, whisk together dressing ingredients holding back a bit of the salt, taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed, and refrigerate.
Assembly: When they’re still very warm, peel potatoes and cut into salad sized cubes. Season, and add 1 tablespoon each of malt vinegar and oil. Toss gently to coat and let cool completely before proceeding.
When totally cool, add shallots and toss with enough dressing to bring to your desired salad consistency (you may like it wetter or drier than me).
Gently fold in peas and carrots. Taste for seasoning, and let sit covered, at room temperature, for about twenty minutes before service.
*A word of advice about shallots: Don’t dice them until just before you mix the salad. When they sit for too long after cutting, shallots will become quite acrid in flavor and stink up your kitchen.
Makes 6 servings.
Sunday Night Baby Bok Choy
2 dozen, or 1/2 pound of baby bok choy, washed and cut in half, length-wise
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Large flaked salt, like Malden salt, for finishing
Place cut bok choy into a bowl and add salt, pepper, sugar, and oil. Toss to coat. Set aside for a couple of hours.
When ready to cook: place a large rimmed baking sheet in oven and set to 450°. When the oven comes to temp, place the bok choy on the baking sheet, cut side down.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned on the cut side. Turn on broiler and put the pan on the top rack. Leave cut side down. Cook until there is a little color on the veg.
When done, put the bok choy back in the bowl, add the lemon juice and toss to coat. Sprinkle with a big pinch of finishing salt.
Serve immediately. Serves 3-4.
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