Thursday Recipe Exchange: Grilled New Potatoes with Dill Butter

Spent the last couple of days lining out my job duties for my replacement and doing double duty with the burgeoning sprouts of my new business. It’s been a busy time and I haven’t had a lot of time for cooking, so it felt good to get back to it today.

What I love about summer cooking is how everything is fresh and tastes terrific. I’m reluctant to do more than the bare minimum to the bounty from the garden or farm stand. So tonight I’ve got two simple potato recipes.

Grilled Potatoes with Onions is a family favorite and the recipe can be found here.

Tonight’s featured recipe takes advantage of new potatoes and garden fresh dill. Summer is all about grilled vegetables for me, what do you like to grill? Is there something you look forward to every summer (yum, corn!).

Grilled New Potatoes with Dill Butter

If you don’t like dill, you can substitute garlic, chives or any fresh herbs from the garden.

  • 2-3 lbs of new potatoes, any variety
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Wash and dry potatoes. Slice in half or quarter larger potatoes. Coat well with olive oil and lightly salt with kosher salt. Using a grilling basket, grill over medium heat (or to the side of hot coals) turning frequently to brown all sides. Roast until tender. I actually used my cast iron skillet, added a tablespoon of butter and tablespoon of olive oil and stirred as need to brown all sides. Cast iron works great on the grill. My grilling basket was otherwise engaged.

For butter, mix together butter, dill and garlic and you can either toss with the potatoes before serving or put on the table and let people add as desired.

Back to Basics: Pie Crust

Blueberry Pie photo by JeffreyW

I’m terrified of pie crusts. I can honestly tell you I’ve never made one. Ever. Until today.

I always thought that there was no way I could succeed at – it seemed like a science experiment that I was unprepared to undertake. I wasn’t quite wrong.

See a few years ago, my friend Alton (not that one) wrote a post on Ratios, a cookbook that was part science, part math, part foolproof recipes.He chose to try out the pie crust recipe and made it sound so easy that for quite sometime I toyed with trying it out.

Ratio isn’t a recipe book so much as an explanation of the different ratios that go into making various dishes. For example a pie crust is a ratio of 3:2:1. Three parts flour. Two parts fat. One part liquid. Put the ingredients together in these amounts and in this order and you get pie dough. This is the fact. The science. The structure behind cooking. The art is determined by how skillfully you blend the ingredients. What changes you make in ingredients.

Tonight I decided that with my desire to go back to the basics, this was a good a place as any to continue that journey.

Here goes nothing.

For perfect pie crust all you need is this ratio:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 2 parts fat
  • 1 part water
To that I added a touch of sugar and salt.  (I used 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt , 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup water).  Sound easy? It was. And while not perfect yet – after all it was my first pie crust and working with it takes some practice. Hence JeffreyW’s photo and not one of my own. It was flaky and tasted ok.  I made blueberry turnovers. And I can say, I’m no longer afraid of pie crust.

There are some tricks to mixing together your perfect ratio.  Cold, cold, cold is the first tip. I cut frozen butter (oh, and I use butter instead of shortening in most everything because I like it and I always have it on hand) into small pieces and then put it back in the freezer, along with a glass mixing bowl, a measuring cup of water, my pastry cutter and my marble rolling pin.

I whisked together the flour, sugar and salt then cut in the butter with my pastry cutter, but not too much, the butter was already small, when those small pieces were smaller by half I stopped.  It was warm in the kitchen, so the butter softened quickly. I added the water, mixed it together until everything was moistened, then kneaded it lightly by hand. I divided into two sections, wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until chilled. Then I rolled it out for turnovers.

I was still a little unsure of how thin to roll it out. This is something I’m going to research and play with and see what I can come up with. Maybe Mrs. J will have some suggestions.

Back to Basics: Grilling Steak

A little background. When I began What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, it was a subscription menu service.  Because of the experiences of the people around me, I targeted it to families and specifically those who were intimidated by cooking. I wanted them to have easy, fool-proof recipes that kept them away from fast foods. It grew and grew and then as my life went in another direction, it kind of morphed into this blog.

I want to explore some cooking basics, just because I think everyone can use a refresher now and then. And also, while I was watching a cooking show the other night I realized I could use to improve some of my basic skills, too. I’ve gotten a little sloppy over the years.

Since it’s Memorial Day Weekend, I thought grilling would be a great place to start.

Photo by JeffreyW

It’s a pretty basic skill. There are some tips to grill the perfect steak every time. Cut isn’t as important as cooking technique. My favorites are sirloin, t-bone, rib eye, occasionally I’ll do a NY strip steak. JeffreyW has had some luck with flat iron steaks. I haven’t played with that one enough to have a good feel for it. Pick your favorite and let’s start grilling:

Step 1 – Always have meat at room temperature before grilling. This means taking it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling. Season it, cover it and set it on the counter.

Step 2– Seasoning. Start with the basics while you perfect your technique.  You’ll want to salt it, lightly if it’s a thinner steak, a little heavier for a thick steak.  Use pepper and garlic liberally, With these you are creating a crust that will grill up nicely on your steak. Later on you can move to coffee rubs or seasoned rubs.

Step 3 – Grilling. You’ll want a very hot flame to sear both sides of the steak. Here’s the trick, put the steak on and do not turn it until you can easily move it when you give it a push with a  utensil (usually about a minute or 2). Flip it and repeat. Then move it to a medium flame (or away from direct flame on a charcoal grill) and let grill. For rare your total grilling time is about 5 minutes a side, including searing. Use a meat thermometer until you get a feel for it. NEVER cut into it to test it, see step 4. Rare to medium-rare is going to give you the best grilling experience.

Step 4 – Rest.  Steak (and roasts, too) need to rest for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. This keeps your steak from losing all its juice when you cut into it.  If you cut into before that, you’ll be chewing a completely dried out piece of meat, no matter how rare.

That’s it. That is a perfect steak. I’ve heard some people put a pat of butter on it as it rests, I’ve never tried it, but watch enough cooking shows and you’ll see someone do it. Some people use steak sauce…I have no idea why. A good baked potato and salad are all I need with my steak.

Have a good holiday. And remember to thank a vet somewhere along the next three days.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Potatoes

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice.

I’m ready for this week to be done. Time for some weekend. It is supposed to rain which may impact my cycling, but we need the rain, as several areas are on fire. So I won’t whine and will find other ways to enjoy the days off. I’m seeing The Avengers tomorrow and no big plans otherwise.

I may finish Wiley Cash’s book, A Land More Kind than Home. I’m about halfway through. I love this book and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is I want to savor every chapter. Thanks for the recommendation John Cole.

Nothing exciting on the cooking front this week, but I did go out to dinner earlier this week and had an Indian Bread Taco that was amazing. I doubt I could recreate it, but if anyone has a good recipe, I’d love it if you’d share it.

Glad to hear frequent recipe contributor, Joshua D. (aka:Yutsano) had successful surgery today. Maybe he’ll have time to cook some good stuff while he recuperates.

Okay, on to tonight’s ingredients: potatoes. I have three recipes for you, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Potatoes, Roasted Smashed Potatoes, and a fool-proof Baked Potato with Roasted Garlic Butter below. If none of those are what you’re looking for, I just checked and we have over 20 potato recipes, you’ll probably find at least one.

This method results in excellent baked potatoes that have a crisp, flavorful skin and tender, fluffy potato. Top with roasted garlic butter for a perfect side. If you’re wondering about the skewers, they transfer heat throughout, so the potatoes cook quicker and don’t seem to dry out. Always fluffy. Skewering works really well with sweet potatoes, too.

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 to 4 metal skewers


  • 1 or 2 large head of garlic
  •  olive oil
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
  • 4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one)

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

What’s on your weekend menu? And if you have recipe requests, let me know. I’m thinking strawberries or ziti next week, I haven’t decided yet.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Felt the need for some cookies and peanut butter was the ingredient that I seemed to have available.

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Thoroughly cream butter, peanut butter and sugars.  Add egg and vanilla, mixing well.  Combine dry ingredients and slowly stir into creamed mixture.  Mix well, dough will be stiff, if not add a bit more flour.  Shape into 1″ balls and roll  in sugar before placing on cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork in a criss-cross shape and bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes.  Don’t let get too brown.

Best served with a cold glass of milk.

Jalapeno Bushes

We’ve had wonderful luck with the two jalapeno plants we grew in containers this year.  Productive and tasty, I just loved being able to go out the door and be back in thirty seconds with a fresh jalapeno or two for using in an omelet or burrito or whatever else.  I am going to miss them.  I was letting the peppers ripen to a nice deep red just because they were so pretty but noticed a few were getting a bit soft.  I decided to strip the plants and can everything save for a pint or so that I will try to use before they go bad in the fridge.

I washed and sliced and chopped and ended with another 8 pints of peppers.  I have lost count but I think we have 12 more pints from earlier canning sessions.

I have been adding onion slices, chunks of carrot, and cloves of garlic to previous batches but these went into the jars with just the vinegar and the brine mixture with a few whole black peppercorns, some coriander, bay leaves,  and a dash or two of oregano.  I made 2 batches of pickling liquid, each batch was 3 cups cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 3 T sugar, and 1 T pickling salt plus the aforementioned spices.  This time I remembered to add the calcium chloride granules to the jars that are supposed to keep everything crisp.  We will see.  Each batch was enough for 4 pints of the peppers.  I gave them all 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Everything sealed nicely.  Love that snap! when the lids seal as the jars cool.

Awesome Sauce [repost]

I’ve made some tomato sauces this summer that qualify for the label.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this one before, and teased the recipe.  It is pretty straightforward to make.  Juice a bunch of tomatoes and start them boiling on the stove top.  Now start adding stuff:  The one I’m making today has a head of garlic in it, roughly minced.  I brought in some fresh herbs from the patio garden, a good wad of basil, several sprigs of rosemary, and the same for thyme.  We started some oregano but it died out early and we make do with store bought dried.  There are two grated carrots in there, and a minced onion.  A few ribs of celery diced finely.  Salt and fresh ground back pepper, a few tablespoons of olive oil.  I bet I’m forgetting something, but this will get you very close.

All that’s left to do is simmer the sauce down until it is thick enough to suit you.  Today I started with about six quarts of juice.  I’m not there yet, but I expect to jar one quart, or less.  This stuff makes great pizza sauce.  On pasta it is, well, awesome.

[Edit:]   Made three pints.

A Bright Spot…

…in an otherwise dismal year for tomatoes is the grape tomato plant in the patio garden.  As in “what are we going to do with this batch”?

I decided to halve them and dry them in the oven.  A good sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, some thyme from the patio herb garden, and 4 hours at 250 or so and these babies look like they will go perfectly on a pizza.  I crammed them all into a spare plastic jar with the oil collected from the tray and will keep them in the fridge.

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