I know. You’re thinking it’s that tired old cliche everyone says (usually in an entirely monotone voice with as little enthusiasm as you can muster for good measure) in the midwest. It’s usually in relation to why we stay put in this God-forsaken climate- ridiculously cold in winter, so cold your snot freezes the instant you set foot outside and if your eyes should accidentally water, your lashes will freeze those shut for good measure. And if you wear glasses, you pretty much just assume you’ll be blind for an easy 5 minutes on entering the car, the house, the office, wherever… Then a few short months later, it gets hot. Damned hot. So hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. But it would actually just steam because there’s so much humidity in the air it’s impossible to fry anything. For a few short weeks, we enjoy our weather. A couple weeks in spring where it’s starting to turn green but not yet humid. A few weeks in fall where you can leave both heat and air conditioning off for the whole rotation of the clock. These are the days we stay for. Where you just can’t imagine not seeing the beautiful color, be it that new green you only get in spring or those bold reds and golds of fall, you know you’d miss the change of seasons if you lived anywhere else and you put up with the endless months in between because of the promise that awaits you…
Yeah. That. Only that’s not exactly the change I mean. For me, the change of seasons signifies the great dinner swap. There are things I will cook year round- Taco Tuesday is a staple. And there is really no such thing as non-grilling season. My grill sits just off the back porch awaiting the next round of steaks (brats, pork chops, whatever) 365 days a year and all but about 5 are game for firing it up if I’m so inclined. The 5 are those days where the wind is howling and the windchill factor drops us into temperatures so far below zero you forget what it actually feels like to be hot… And those days are off the table only because the grill won’t get hot enough to cook anything. Believe me, I’ve been the girl with her beer sitting ON the grill on Super Bowl Sunday because it was the only way to keep it from freezing solid while the brats were cooking. You can’t watch the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl without the brats and beer, right?
But I digress. The real point is, I love when winter slips into the dog days of summer and its time to limit the use of the oven, fire up the grill more often and feast on the cold salads that just don’t go down quite so easy in the summer. And a few months later, I crave those first few cool nights when the slow cooker becomes my best friend all over again. When things that need long baking times warm the kitchen and scent the house with aromas you’ve missed for so long. Yep. For me the change of seasons is all about the food.
For a couple of weeks now I’ve been heavily surrounding myself with summer foods. Cucumber Salad goes with everything you know. Really. Everything. And there is no such thing as overdosing yourself on it for the next 3 months. A bowl of it should be a fixture in your fridge. And while I know there are a million ways to make it, the only one that really satisfies is the one my mom and grandma made. Classic comfort in the form of a cold salad. Good thing Mr.Me loves it as much as I do or we’d have issues. So simple to make, so delicious to eat. Wanna make some? I’ve shared my recipe here.
I served this up on Sunday with barbecued ribs, homemade coleslaw and another recent invention, baked potato salad. I discovered this treat a couple of years ago in the deli case at the local Piggly Wiggly. Its delicious. How could it not be? Taters and bacon and cheese, oh my! But the thing is, they don’t always have it. Frankly they don’t often have it, especially when I’m really craving it. And it’s not the store I prefer to shop at. So it was time for a little Mad Scientist-Kitchen Edition. I am not a food blogger, nor do I play one on TV (as will be obvious by my total lack of measurements & precision!), but I thought it might be fun to take some pictures and share the process in case you want to play along at home. So here you go, my version of baked potato salad.
- Baking Potatoes (Figure 1/2 per person and make enough for leftovers since it better the 2nd day. Duh.)
- Sour Cream (I like Daisy light, use what you like). I used about a quarter cup of each to dress 2 large potatoes. I like the salad a little on the dry side so that all the flavors blend nicely without anything standing out or overpowering the rest
- Mayo (Again, I like light, fat free or regular will work, too. Use what you’re used to)
- Lemon Juice (From a bottle’s easy, fresh if you have it or want to work that hard)
- Sargento Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Crumbled Bacon (Use the real stuff, not the fake crap. You can buy the real stuff or fry it up and crumble it on your own but you definitely want REAL bacon)
- Green Onions, finely sliced
- Salt, Pepper & Garlic Powder
On to the fun part, assembly!
- Bake the potatoes. This should be a fairly obvious step since it’s called Baked potato salad, but you know, I wanted to be specific. As it’s summer and you really don’t want to heat up the house JUST to bake potatoes, I’d recommend making a batch of cookies or a pan of brownies here, too, just for good measure. Get your money’s worth out of your air conditioner if you’re already making it work overtime!
- While your taters are cooling, mix up the dressing. I like to use equal-ish parts sour cream and mayo plus a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. The lemon juice will add a nice tang as well as thin out the dressing for easier stirring later.
- Season to taste with the salt, pepper (Fresh cracked black is best) and garlic powder.
- Sample. Tweak until your mouth explodes with joy.
- Stir in the bacon, cheese and onions. Again, quantities are not so important. IF I were to suggest them, I’d expect you to take them as merely that, a suggestion, anyway, and adjust to you and your family’s own tastes. I probably did a quarter cup each of the cheese & onions, a bit less of the bacon, if I had to guestimate.
- Once the potatoes are mostly cool, slice them in half (better yet, slice them after taking them out of the oven, they’ll cool faster and speed up the process, getting you back to the couch to knit much quicker!) and squish the guts out. Again, proof I am no food blogger. They never say things like squish the guts out. If you’re OCD, you could choose to dice the potatoes into pretty little cubes. I am not. I like the “rustic” look. Oh. And I’m kinda lazy. Squishing the guts out takes less time AND dirty’s fewer dishes. Any large lumps will break up when you stir the taters into the dressing anyway.
- Stir the whole works together and toss in the fridge to cool until dinner time.
The best and final step of course is to eat and enjoy. I can’t wait to come up with the next excuse to stir up a batch of this salad. 4th of July can’t come soon enough!