For someone who suffers from appetizer anxiety like I do, these little bacon, lettuce and tomato skewers couldn't be easier. The only cooking is the bacon, and you actually have to undercook it to be able to thread it onto the skewers. And, who doesn't love a good BLT? I love to serve these little bites with wasabi mayonnaise, which really packs a punch, and adheres somewhat to the spirit of a traditional BLT sandwich. You can mix up any dipping sauce you like, with mayonnaise as the base. Instead of wasabi, try adding Sriracha sauce, or some of the adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. Don't want spicy? How about stirring some basil pesto into your mayo, or garlicky Green Goddess salad... Read more →

Why do the words pasta salad strike fear in the hearts of eaters everywhere? I know why. Pasta salad is hard to get right. It can be too watery, or too dry, or too chewy, or too bland. I'll bet everyone has experienced at least one of these less-than-wonderful pasta salads, especially the versions that sit for far too long on buffet tables. Don't worry: you can make much better pasta salad at home. There are a couple of secrets to good pasta salad. One, make sure the pasta is fully cooked; there's nothing trendy about biting into an al dente piece of cold pasta. Two, make sure the pasta is minimally dressed. If you end up with too much dressing at the bottom of... Read more →

The summer of 2016 might go down as the hottest summer on record, but in my kitchen, it will be known forever as The Summer of Pickles. If I laid all of the dill pickles I've made end-to-end, they'd probably reach all the way down the block! Alas, I can't do that, because I've eaten every one of them. This summer I've been making quick pickles from carrots and green beans, too. And today it's cabbage -- actually store-bought cole slaw mix -- given a quick pickling in a vinegar brine, then tossed with jalapeño pepper and cilantro, perfect for topping fish, shrimp, or chicken tacos. The cabbage stays crunchy and tart if eaten on the day it's made, but leave it overnight in the... Read more →

Which ingredients absolutely, positively, have to be in the perfect potato salad? I think we can all agree on potatoes, but what else? Celery? Pickles? Eggs? Sugar? Onions? When it comes to the perfect potato salad, I'm a potatoes-only purist. For me, it's more about the sauce that binds it all together, and I prefer tangy to sweet. However, I'm not against adding a good handful of garden-fresh herbs when I'm lucky enough to have some. This summer, I've been making lots of dill pickles, and there's always a good bit of fresh dill weed left over, so this creamy dilly potato salad has become the standard variation for the season. Don't skimp on the dill; it's an ingredient in its own right, and not... Read more →

Whenever I buy a quart-size bottle of buttermilk (and why is there is no other size available?), I use some for baking, some for salad dressing, and the rest for marinades. Buttermilk is a great tenderizer, as any fried-chicken lover knows, and that's especially handy for grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which can dry out quickly on the hot grill unless they've been marinated first. This recipe calls for a quick marinade, of one hour but not more than two hours, so with buttermilk and chicken breasts on hand, you can start this when you get home from work, and have it on the grill in time for dinner. Add a side of potato salad, some grilled vegetables brushed with olive oil and seasoned with... Read more →

I love farmers market season, when every variety of every vegetable is available, fresh picked on the day it comes to market. If you find multi-colored carrots at the market, buy them for this recipe, but if you don't, choose the most beautiful orange carrots you can find. The colors all taste the same. Slice them very thinly with a sharp knife or, preferably, on a mandoline. When you put together a picnic, cookout or spur-of-the-moment summer dinner, a few quick and easy side dishes in your repertoire can fill in the blanks between the protein on the grill, and cookies or brownies for dessert. These pickled carrots take less than an hour to prepare, including the time it takes to find the mandoline that... Read more →

When I see pickling cucumbers at the farmers market, I am the moth drawn to the flame. I must have them. And when I see fresh dill, I must have that, too. And then I make dill pickles, lots and lots of them. Sometimes, however, I find cucumbers but no dill, and for those times, I have my friend Pauline's bread and butter pickle recipe. Pauline, who left us for the great kitchen in the sky last year, taught me many complicated dishes, from her French-Canadian heritage and her stints living in other parts of the country, and she taught me this simple one. The only change I've made is to cut down on the sugar (and even at that, most of the sugar remains... Read more →