Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato Chives

Time was ticking and the potato salad still was not made. The potatoes were boiling, and while I waited for them to be done, I filled the chocolate cake layers with a raspberry filling and iced it with thick chocolate frosting, as requested. I was preparing for a casual cookout for a loved one's birthday. Loved One didn't want to make a big deal over it; I did. But to honor the Birthday Boy I held back, sort of. I didn't get balloons. Instead of fresh flowers as a centerpiece for the table I used potted basil. All in all, we kept it low key, including the potato salad. Normally, I would attempt my mother's famous potato salad where she uses hard-boiled eggs, mayo, red onion, and celery -- all the classic ingredients that make a rich salad, delicious. I didn't have the time or the inclination for that. Mine would employ spring: fresh chives from the garden. As a child I discovered chives growing between rocks in a lawn, although at the time I didn't know that's what these thin spikes of bright green-ness with an oniony flavor were called. They're delicate sharpness is a nice complement to the creamy potatoes. After the cookout, Loved One was describing the meal -- a small sign that I had done good -- on the phone. "Yeah, and she made this potato salad, I think it's a family recipe, really good." A new family recipe, anyway. Oh, and I did whip out the red party hats stuffed in the back of the cupboard. For a brief moment we all wore them, even the dog.

Spring Fever Potato Salad

1 lb. red bliss potatoes, quartered with skins on
2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Red wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Boil the potatoes, with skins on, until tender, not mushy, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool about 20 minutes.
2. Put potatoes in a medium size bowl. While still warm, sprinkle with olive oil and vinegar, lightly toss. Add salt and pepper, toss. Add chives.
3. Adjust flavorings by adding more olive oil, or vinegar or salt and pepper. Heck, add more chives, too.
4. Serve chilled or room temperature.

PICNIC NOTE: The nice thing about this potato salad is you don't have to worry about the mayo getting hot in the sun because there is no mayo in this recipe.

HASH-BROWN LEFTOVERS: Refrigerate the leftovers. For great hash browns, heat olive oil in a skillet and add 1 Tbsp. chopped onions, cook until golden. Over high heat, add the potato salad and sauté until golden, keep moving the potatoes around so they brown. Nice with a chive and goat cheese omelet.

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