Summer is often the season of potlucks – brunches, dinners, etc. Wonderful times to get together with friends, share nice conversation, try new foods. We just celebrated the Fourth of July twice with several friends. What could I bring, I offered? One hostess asked me to bring a salad, the other asked for something Greek.
The salad … our first host and hostess are dieting and careful what they eat. I have a long, long history of dieting and could write a book about that – successes, failures, easy, tasty recipes – so I’m very sympathetic. Grilled salmon was the main with sides, so what salad to bring? I thought about the menu and niçoise salad niçoise seemd to be a good choice. I quickly made a list of what I needed – lettuce (romaine in this case), hard cooked eggs, potatoes, string beans, olives (kalamata in this instance) – the standards. I added marinated artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and sliced, seeded cucumbers to the mix. Then a dressing with garlic, lemon zest, Dijon, and anchovies all mixed with olive oil.
Recently I read a new method to boil eggs. I learned from my Mom to put the eggs in a saucepan of water, bring it to boil. Then turn it off and move off the heat and wait some time. This works, but the yokes have a dark circle around the periphery. For the new method, gently lower the eggs into boiling water. Reduce the heat to simmer for 7 minutes. Quickly put the eggs into an ice water bath. The yokes are a little bit runny and just lovely. What’s more if you’re making a niçoise or a potato salad, you can boil the eggs with the potatoes.
The string beans … a while ago I had way too many beans so I blanched them (boil for just a few minutes, then plunge into an ice bath). When they had cooled, I froze them. Thought they’d be good for the potluck salad. No, the texture had totally changed, tough and chewy. The next day I transformed the string beans into a potage (a blended soup). The beans, combined with about 6 cups of water and 4 potatoes, then blended with the immersion blender, to make soup – an excellent, off the cuff solution. In place of the tough string beans, I used asparagus. There was almost no salad left at the end of the meal!
Next, something Greek. What is an easy appetizer? And something my dairy averse husband could eat – both constraints eliminated cheese or spinach pies; grape leaves, too much work. I remembered I had 2 jars of Romanoff Vodka lumpfish – those small red fish eggs – so caviar salad (taramasalata) it was! You can make this with either bread or boiled potatoes to give the dip substance. I had more potatoes than I needed for the potage, so I finished off the potatoes. Mashed or pureed and mixed with 2 jars of fish roe, a clove of garlic, and some lemon juice (would not be Greek without the lemon juice). Added to this was about 1/2 cup of olive oil (another requisite Greek ingredient). If you use more oil, the end product will become more like mayonnaise – make it your taste.
Oh my, the last time I made taramasalata was a long-ago holiday pot luck with the staff of the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (wow, more than 20 years ago!). The director went wild, when he saw what I’d brought … brought back fond memories of trips to Greece. Our recent pot luck was similar. Another guest enjoyed it so much, I made sure the leftover went home with her. Thank you for enjoying.