Posts Tagged ‘Amy MacDonald’

Connie’s Salade Niçoise

Monday, September 16th, 2013
Connie's Photo of Her Salade

Connie’s Photo of Her Salade

Summer is almost over—but we’re still surrounded by much of its lovely produce. This classic salad recipe comes from my friend Connie MacDonald via her sister Amy. (Thank you, Connie and Amy!)

Connie’s instructions call for tossing the entire salad together. When I made it I had fewer people than it serves so I ended up plating all the ingredients separately and letting my guests help themselves. That way, the leftovers could be combined again the next day.

However you mix it, the salad gives you a lovely way to say farewell to summer’s bounty. And it gives me a delicious way to remember my late mother, who adored Salade Niçoise.

She always included a little hard-boiled egg in her Salade so I did so as well (as you can see in the photo of my version). It’s not obligatory, however!

Salade Niçoise à la Constance


for the salad:

8 small red potatoes
1-1/2 pounds French (or any good, fresh) green beans
1 cup Greek olives
1/2 red onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes
a couple of big handsful of Mesclun greens (3 to 4 cups)
about 1 pound tuna—canned, in packets, or fresh (if it’s fresh you should obviously quickly cook it before using it!)

for the Lemon Vinaigrette (more or less to your taste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder (Tinky used 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Boil the potatoes. While they are cooking to al dente, steam green beans. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Dice the olives and onion. Set them aside separately.

Whisk together the vinaigrette.

Wash the tomatoes and the salad greens and set them aside. “By this point,” says Connie, “your counter top looks like an awesome Provençal cooking show with many bowls full of colorful veggies. You can practically feel your hair grow in anticipation of the impending nutritive boost.”

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and let them cool until you can safely handle them. Slice them into 1/4-inch-thick slices and toss the warm potatoes with half of the vinaigrette. (I, Tinky, had the tiniest potatoes in the world so many of them didn’t need slicing.)

Find a really big bowl, toss and mix in all the ingredients, and cover them with the remaining vinaigrette. Toss gently, but thoroughly.

Turn the salad out onto a large platter and serve with fresh croissants.

“T.D.F. (to die for),” says Connie. The girl has a point. Serves 8 to 10 generously.

A Plate with My Unmixed Version of the Salade

A Plate with My Unmixed Version of the Salade

Finally … in case you’re not among those I have inundated with the links to my latest TV appearance, here they are! On Friday I made two dishes on the program “Mass Appeal” for World Alzheimer’s Month: Broccoli and Apple Salad and Apple Crumble.

Amy’s Award-Winning Super Chili

Friday, January 30th, 2009



The Big Game is just around the corner. (Apparently, unauthorized people are not allowed to combine the words “Super” and “Bowl” into one phrase lest they violate copyright and get raided by the Football Gestapo. So we’re calling it the Big Game. You know what I mean.)


The traditional dish for this event is chili. I usually make my standard beef chili, but this year my college roommate Amy MacDonald has offered something more unusual. Her chili was tied for first place in a chili cook-off last year. She says she was inspired by a class she took years ago with chef/instructor Pat Kapp.





Amy sent me her recipe in narrative form. In her words, “It’s not really a recipe—it took three days—it’s practically a way of life.” I love her attitude and her writing because they illustrate the improvisational way in which we all really cook (yes, even cookbook authors!). I hardly ever follow a recipe from start to finish. There’s too much tasting, thinking, and running out of ingredients along the way.


In the interest of making this blog more or less coherent, however, I have translated her essay about making the chili into a semi-standardized recipe. I’ve left in several of her observations because they reflect her personality and that of her chili.


I should add that my family ran out of time and turned the three-day chili into a two-day chili. We just basically kept it in the slow cooker overnight and thought it was ready to serve after 24 hours, just after we added the brown sugar and jam. The end result was quite delicious and definitely prize worthy. So don’t worry if you don’t have three days before the game.


Amy's son William wanted to add barbecue sauce to the chili.

Amy's son William wanted to add barbecue sauce to the chili.



The Chili




2 chicken breasts (or 5 drumsticks, which I happened to have in the house)

2 4-inch sticks fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh

salt to taste

1 cup red wine, divided (Amy says, “if you happen to be drinking it at the time. I say, “Drink.”)

1/2 pound kielbasa (I mixed kielbasa and locally produced chorizo), plus more if desired

1 large red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

butter and olive oil as needed for sautéing

2 cans black beans

2 cans other beans (NOT garbanzos; I used pinto and kidney)

1 can pureed or chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari—even better—if you have it in the house)

3 serrano chiles, seeded and minced

6 ounces dark beer or ale

2 heaping tablespoons chili powder, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 ounces barbecue sauce

vegetable or chicken stock if needed

1/3 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
hot sauce to taste (optional)



Day I: 

Poach the chicken in a little water along with the rosemary and thyme, plus a little salt. Throw in 1/4 cup wine.


Slice the kielbasa into pieces “about the size of a very thick quarter,” and brown them in a frying pan.


In a separate frying pan, brown the onion and garlic in butter and oil. “I don’t know why both butter and oil,” says Amy. “Just do it.” (Actually, the combination adds flavor and keeps the butter from burning.) “The critical thing here is the browning part. Searing everything adds depth.”


Open the cans of beans. Throw them into a pot. “Heat them to a really good simmer.” While they are heating up, take the chicken meat off the bones. Put that meat and the chicken’s cooking liquid in a large slow cooker.  Add the beans, vegetables, sausage, tomatoes, soy, chiles, and beer.


“[T]hen start worrying about whether there is enough meat,” says Amy. If you’re concerned (I was! I love meat!), brown another 1 /2 pound at least of sausage in a frying pan. Deglaze the pan with the remaining wine, and add the sausage and wine to the slow cooker. If you don’t use more sausage, just throw the wine in by itself.  Stir in the chili powder.  Cook overnight on low heat.


Day II:


On Day II Amy’s son announced that the chili needed some barbecue sauce.  Amy didn’t actually add any, but I misunderstood her explanation of his request, and I put some in. Not bad! Taste for flavoring, and if you want to add more chili powder. If you think you want more liquid in your chili, add some stock. Stir in the brown sugar and jam; then cook for a few more hours on low heat. Remove the chili from the crock pot, and refrigerate it overnight.


Day III:


Return the chili to the crock pot, add the cilantro, and cook it for several additional hours on low heat. Taste it a couple of hours before you’re ready to serve it. If you think it needs more seasoning, feel free to add some chili powder, salt, red pepper flakes, or even hot sauce. If you think it just needs more cooking, increase the heat to high.


If you’re entering a chili cook-off, lobby avidly and look cute. (Amy always does.) If you’re just watching football, dish the chili out.


Serves at least 10 football fans.


Our Michael is ready for the Big Game.

Our Michael is ready for the Big Game.

Avenaceous Meatloaf

Sunday, January 11th, 2009


          Knowing that this blog and I are currently celebrating National Oatmeal Month, my college roommate Amy MacDonald recently sent me’s word of the day for January 5. The word was AVENACEOUS. It means relating to or like oats.

           Amy, known to her college friends as “Our Amy” (we like to take credit for her), is one of my favorite people in the world. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s musical. And she’s as practical and loving as they come. She has a terrific family, from matriarch Kathleen and the seven(!) MacDonald siblings down to her own kids, Caitlin and William. Until recently I was under the impression that Caitlin and William were still extremely young. Last time I saw them they were sipping drinks of such an intense blue that only children under ten could digest them–or would want to try. According to Amy’s most recent missive, however, they have somehow become teenagers.

Our Amy (wearing Kathleen's glamorous earrings)

Our Amy (glamorous earrings courtesy of Kathleen)

          Obviously, Amy and I don’t get together as often as we’d like. Unfortunately (from my point of view), she lives in California. Whenever we do, we talk for hours, just as though we were still sitting on our beds at Mount Holyoke. Even when we’re apart, we think of each other often. I’m convinced that no one else would have found the term avenaceous for me. If you’d like to see Wordsmith’s full tribute to this highly appropriate word, look at

          I was going to call the dish below “Your Basic Meatloaf with Oatmeal,” but I think the new name is much classier. Classy or not, this comfort food is a staple in my home in winter. My mother Jan never uses breadcrumbs to fill out her loaf. Oats are much tastier and more nutritious as well. If you’re feeding small children, chop the onion and bell pepper into very small pieces to disguise them a bit. Adults seem to like larger chunks.

          To keep from chilling your hands, take the ground meat out of the refrigerator about an hour before you’re ready to put your loaf together. Enjoy your avenaceous meal!

Avenaceous Meatloaf


2 pounds good-quality ground beef (or a combination of beef with pork—or beef, pork, and veal!)

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium or 1/2 large bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 or 2 eggs

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats plus a bit more if needed

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard


          Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. (Your clean hands are the best tools for putting them all together.)  Blend in 1 egg and the 1/2 cup oatmeal. If it’s hard to get everything to bind together, add another egg and/or a few more oats.

          Fashion the meat mixture into a rough log, and place it in a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard, and spread them over the meatloaf.

          Bake the loaf from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serves 8.meatloaf-ingredients-web1