potato salad 
Although your guests may argue that this is not a “real” potato salad (of course, there is no mayonnaise) a single bite should settle the score.  This bright, vinegary side dish has been known to take center stage at my barbeques, so be sure to serve it alongside hearty entrees that will stand on their own.

Total kitchen time: 1 hour
Makes: 8 servings

Shopping list:

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 2 tsp. herbs de provençe
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F and set the top rack in the middle position.
  2. Spread the potatoes in an even layer in a microwave-safe dish filled with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Microwave 8-12 minutes (this will vary a lot) or until the potatoes are fork tender, but not fully cooked.  Drain and pat dry.
  3. Meanwhile, spread the diced onion and pepper in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they have softened, about 15 minutes. 
  4. Add the par-cooked potatoes and toss with a little olive oil to coat.  Bake another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden brown. 
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The dijon vinaigrette is a balancing act between bitter, sweet, salty and spicy.  Adjust each of the ingredients until the vinaigrette stings your tongue, but finishes in your mouth with a slightly sweet, rounded flavor. 
  6. Toss the potatoes and vinaigrette together on a serving bowl and serve warm or room temperature.

If you want to cheat a little (I won’t tell) you may be able to get away with frozen roasted potatoes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, they sell a package of frozen potatoes with roasted veggies that works great for this recipe.  It can be our little secret.

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DSC_0028
Sometimes I feel like getting a little fancy, and a whole roasted duck fits the bill.  Don’t let it intimidate you, though.  Roasting a duck is just like roasting a chicken, and no, it’s not absolutely necessary to crack open an actual coconut to make this recipe.  If you’re feeling a little adventurous, give this one a try.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Total kitchen time: 2 hours
Makes: foul for four

Shopping list:

  • 1 whole duck (or 4 duck breasts, if you prefer)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 24 oz. (4 small cans) pineapple juice
  • 1.5 cups basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut (from the drink mixers aisle of your supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F and set the top rack in the middle position.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the duck, inside and out.  Salt and pepper the skin and inner cavity.
  2. Blend together the orange zest and butter using a small food processor (or with the back of a fork if you’re Amish, in which case I don’t know how you’re viewing my blog right now).  Stuff half of the orange butter under the skin of the duck and rub the remaining half on the outside of the skin.
  3. Truss the duck (it yields better results, but it isn’t absolutely necessary) and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up.  You can also place the duck directly onto a preheated heavy-bottom skillet, but a roasting pan will help the duck cook more evenly.  Whatever you’ve got around will work, so don’t fret.
  4. Roast the duck for 45 minutes, then flip carefully and roast another 45 minutes with the breast side down.  Be sure to pour out any fat drippings from the body cavity when you flip the bird.  Let the duck rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the pineapple juice in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduce to about 1/4 the quantity.  It should be shiny and a little syrupy.  Set aside.
  6. Prepare the rice using your rice maker or stovetop, according to the directions on the package. 
  7. In a small saucepan, combine the cream of coconut, coconut milk, curry powder, cinnamon, red cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, and adjust to taste by adding more curry powder or red pepper flakes.  Fold the coconut mixture into the rice.
  8. Plate the duck atop the coconut curry rice and spoon over some of the pineapple glaze.

If you’ve never cooked duck before, you’ll be surprised at the amount of fat that melts off the bird as it cooks.  Ducks have fatty skin because ducks need to float.  Wood also floats, and burns.  Witches burn because they are made of wood.  Therefore, if a woman ways the same as a duck, she is a witch.  Wow, a recipe and lesson in illogical justice?  What doesn’t this blog have!

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pizza on the grill
If you asked me my favorite thing about summer, you could be sure that my answer would involve the words “grilling” and “pizza”.  Grilled pizza is an excellent easy supper, especially when you’re cooking with friends.  Go get some pre-made, uncooked dough and a few of your favorite ingredients and dive head-first into your relationship with the grill.  In the pizza above, a simple red sauce, some prosciutto, porcini mushrooms and fresh mozzarella make a great dinner.  Or, if you’re feeling less traditional, try out my other grilled pizza suggestions.

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