June 17th, 2014

Community Salad


Anatomy of a Salad

The arugula and slices from a lone lemon cucumber? I grew those in my garden patch. The impossibly thin green beans were a gift from neighbor Ray. I purchased the onions and baby new potatoes from Barnes’ stand at the downtown farmer’s market. The ruffled purple basil, flat leaf parsley and garlic scapes all came from our friends at the Fresh Harvest Co-op. I picked up the grape tomatoes and a sweet bell pepper at the grocery store, blocks from my home.


Leaves and stalks, pods and seeds, tubers and fruits: All seemingly disparate parts assemble into a lively composition on this plate.

All the sets of hands that played a part in bringing them: A friend and neighbor, farmers whom I’ve met, farmers whom I’d like to meet, growers in a state not too far away, pickers and truckers and sorters and sellers,


even my own hands.

This salad, which will make a fine dinner, also tells a story about community.

All the connections surrounding this one plate.

All the connections we make at the table.

I am mindful of this, especially at this moment, poised as I am, to launch this cookbook into this world.

Today, June 17, 2014, is the day.

It’s been a long road, from pitch to proposal, contract to manuscript delivery, edits, edits, styling and photography, layout, and more edits. Whew. Here comes the Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook.

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook cover

I couldn’t have done it without my community.

Here’s to Gigi Gaskins, my potluck conspirator and co-host, and all the potluckers who contributed their delectable recipes.

Here’s to my editor, Heather Skelton, who caught the vision for this book, its look and structure. She understood our story, a fluid group of people who meet on the third Thursday of each month, and bring their best efforts, with no assigned dishes, no RSVP.

Together, our recipes and stories travel the arc of the seasons.

Together we celebrate the bounty of the moment.

Here’s to Mark and Teresa and Julie. Mark Boughton‘s extraordinary photography, Teresa Blackburn’s deft styling and Julie Allen’s cover design brought Third Thursday to life.

And, to you all, my dear friends and readers, a community that reaches far and wide.


This is the sort of salad that lends itself well to community. Take what you like, and crown it with a nice dollop of lush green garlic scape aioli.

1 pound young green beans, ends trimmed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound baby new potatoes
black pepper
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 lemon cucumber, sliced
1/4 pound arugula
basil leaves

Blanche the green beans: Fill a skillet with water and place over medium high heat. When boiling, plunge the green beans in to cook for 2- 3 minutes (longer, if they are thicker–you want them tender-crisp) Place the cooked beans into a bowl of ice water to set the color and cease the cooking. Drain well.

Pan-roast the new potatoes: Place a skillet on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and rosemary. Cover and cook for 15-18 minutes, shaking the skillet periodically, until the potatoes are browned and tender when pierced with a knife.

Caramelize the onions and red pepper strips: Place olive oil in the skillet set on medium heat. Saute the onions until browned.
Remove the onions and add the red pepper strips. Saute until tender-crisp with browned edges.

Assemble the Community Salad
Place the salad elements in sections on a large serving platter. Serves 4 generously.

Serve with Garlic Scape Aioli (recipe below)


2 or 3 loops of scapes, chopped
1 egg yolk
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt

Place the scapes, egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse, then process, slowly pouring in the olive oil. The mixture will thicken and emulsify, resembling a spring green mayonnaise. Taste for salt and add a pinch as needed.

Place into a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Keeps 3-4 days.
Makes 1 generous cup.


Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Sauces, Vegetables | 17 Comments »

September 14th, 2011

Honoring Requests: Seared Ahi Tuna, Lemon-Tarragon Aioli


Two requests intersect, and complement in today’s post: a lush sauce and a tuna recipe. The first concerns a good customer, and the second, a good cat.

Nearly every Friday, you’ll find me in the kitchen of the Culinary Arts Center at Second Harvest Food Bank. There, we create a wonderful buffet lunch, open to the public. Called First Harvest Cafe, its proceeds go to the support of the food bank, in its varied, but pointed missions to end hunger. We create a different menu for each Friday: One week might be Santa Fe style fajitas and fixin’s, another might explore the tastes of the Mediterranean Rim.

One of our best customers, Don, is a man who lives for good food. He has dined with us nearly every Friday since we started First Harvest Cafe. (August 2005) Talk about loyalty!

A recent Provencal menu featured Salad Nicoise, a beautiful late summer spread with green beans, new potatoes, caramelized sweet red peppers and onions, olives, hard-cooked eggs, and the like. To accompany, I made two dressings: a whipped balsamic vinaigrette and a silken aioli, laced with tarragon and lemony tang.


At the end of our French picnic lunch, Don circled by the kitchen to wish us a happy weekend.

“I could eat a bowl of that sauce,” he said. “If the recipe is not already on your blog, it needs to be.”

Comin’ right up, Don.


1 Lemon–for juice and zest
1 Garlic clove
2 heaping Tablespoon fresh Tarragon leaves
1 farm fresh Egg
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. black pepper
3/4 c. Olive Oil

In a food processor fitted with a swivel blade, process the garlic, lemon juice, zest, and egg together until smooth. Pulse in the tarragon leaves, salt and black pepper. Then, Slowly-steadily drip-pour in the olive oil while processing. The mixture will emulsify into a luscious thick-and-creamy sauce.

Makes about one cup. Keeps for 2-3 days, refrigerated.


I cooked up this simple, but elegant tuna dish, at the request of my daughter. Today is her birthday, and if we were together, we’d dine on these delectables. It’s not that seared ahi tuna is her favorite. Well-loved, for sure, but not a fervent desire. Her request sprung from a different place: the desire to honor our sweet old cat, Cass, who recently exited this physical plane, on to other unseen adventures.

Cass was the fervent tuna lover.

She came to our household in 1992, via our garage, where, as a very young mother, she chose to have her litter. Her name then was Christine. Neglected by her owners, our neighbors two doors down, she was starving, struggling to care for her young. It was a heartbreaking discovery.

At the time, a pair of parakeets were our pets. I had no plans to become a cat owner.

“We’re bird people,” I remember telling my daughter.

No matter. Often, a cat will choose you.

We renamed her Mama Cass, found homes for her kittens, restored her to good health, and ultimately, found a home for the pair of parakeets.

In short, we became cat people.

Cass was a part of our family for almost twenty years. For her first nine years, she was the solo cat. Then came the boys, Mo and Willis, rascals whom she barely tolerated for the following nine years. The boys were snatched from us in untimely ways: an incurable illness, a pack of dogs.

But Mama Cass endured, remarkably healthy, and fairly spry for a feline who brushed up on the age of 97, in human years. No doubt, that dollop of canned tuna I put on top of her dry food every meal was a contributing factor!

There were hints of her impending translation–a loss in appetite, a lengthening in sleeptime. Her old body had worked well for so long, and it was done. She died peacefully, in the comfort of her home, stretched out on a blanket on the couch, surrounded by her loving human family–me and Bill. As uncomfortable as it was watching her surrender to that inevitability, it was a gift to see her make that passage with nobility and grace.

It’s felt empty in our home since her passing. The sun lowers, and I think, oh, it’s time to feed her. Or, if I’ve been out, as soon as I open the front door, I make a move to check on her whereabouts. The brain, so grooved with habit, has to be reminded, and relearn.


SEARED AHI TUNA, served over mixed lettuces, sliced grapefruit, and avocado, topped with Lemon-Tarragon Aioli

Ahi Tuna Steaks, about 1″ thick
Good Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

helpful: ridged cast-iron grillpan

Rinse tuna steaks and pat dry. Rub with olive oil, liberally sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Heat skillet. Sear steaks, about 2 minutes a side. Allow the meat to rest about 10 minutes before slicing.

Arrange slices over a bed of greens, avocado and grapefruit slices. Top with aioli and serve.


Posted in Fish/Seafood, Gluten Free, Recipes, Sauces | 25 Comments »