Archive | 5:53 pm

Zingy Potato Salad

5 Sep

Ugh. It’s been hotter than a tandoori oven here in Southern California. We’ve seemingly landed firmly in the mid to upper 90’s at the beach, and we’re not headed anywhere cooler any time soon if Tootsie Farklepants the forecast is correct. Combine this with the complete absence of our usual ocean breeze and the rising humidity, and it’s downright hell in our non-air conditioned apartment. I recognize that this muggy grossness is probably a fine day on the porch in the South, but for us temperate coastal Californians, this kind of heat is downright brutal – and frankly, unacceptable in the ‘Book of Helga’. Despite it being extra-ordinarily hot & muggy lately, California weather is not my cup of tea in general. Over the years, I’ve been asked countless times what I miss most from Belgium, and as I’m writing this, it dawns on me that it’s not chocolate or quaint cafés, or even abbey-brewed beer. It’s not my friends or family (they visit, after all), or the many French-Fries-on-wheels that dot the town squares, nor is it ‘zoute haring’ or mussels. I miss ‘seasons’. Dreadfully.

Southern California is perpetually stuck in its own ‘non-season’ with year-round pleasantness of 75F and mostly sunny blue skies. Every now & again, temperatures dip well below 60F, at which point we collectively shiver and ‘Brrrr…’ our way through Starbucks’ hot beverages assortment and whip out our sheepskin-lined flip flops, you know, the Winter-kind that keeps the top of your foot warm but still allows you to show off that killer pedicure you paid $45 for. There’s a deep-seated seasonal confusion here in La La Land Los Angeles. Spring & Summer range from sunny warm to hot and are exactly alike, with the exception that in Spring your kids are still in school and your house stays moderately clean throughout the day. Most of the time Fall is simply an extension of Spring or Summer, only slightly cooler and with the gratuitous option of dressing up slutty for Halloween. And in Winter, we get crisp evenings and occasional moderate rainfall, which prompts us all to drive like a troupe of aging circus folk and cover our cars with giant weather-repellent plastic out of fear our paint job may suffer damage. With all meteorological bets off lately, I hold no hope for stew and hot pumpkin lattes any time soon.

On blistering hot days like the past 2 weeks today, my delicate Belgian constitution demands cold fare. One of my favorite Summer dishes is a nice cold potato salad, but I’m not keen on the mayo-laden American version of this classic. It’s not that I’m frantic about my waistline, but I simply like the zing of a vinegar-based potato salad better… I also think it’s more flavorful, but as the French would say: “Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas”… which freely translated means that you are wrong in your opinion about flavors and colors, and they are always right. Et voila…

I am letting you know right now that you are not obligated to like this potato salad, but once you take a sumptuous spoonful of it, I know you’ll fall in love because… BACON! Bacon vincit omnia, ya’ll.


(A Hungry Belgian original adaption of ‘Luikse Sla’ and German Potato Salad)
– 2 lbs of Fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes
– 1 package of thick-cut bacon, sliced in strips (approx. 12 oz. Don’t skimp, this is where the flavor is at!)
– 2 large shallots, diced finely
– 1/3 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
– 1/4 cup of honey
– 1 Tbsp of Dijon mustard
– salt & pepper, to taste
– 4-5 green onions, sliced thinly or slivered
– a handful of crisp arugula

In large pot of salted water, boil potatoes in the peel until fork tender but still with a bit of bite. Drain and allow to cool.

In the meantime, fry bacon in a heavy pan until slightly crisped. Take bacon out of pan and set aside on a paper towel lined sheet, and drain all but 1/4 cup of fat from the pan.

Add diced shallots to pan, and cook in reserved bacon fat until translucent. Add vinegar, honey, mustard, salt & pepper in pan, and heat until hot & bubbly.

Slice lukewarm or cooled potatoes in 1-inch pieces, and pour warm bacon dressing over them. Gently fold in the reserved bacon pieces and sliced green onions. Top with arugula and gently toss one last time.

For extra protein, serve with 2-4 hard boiled egg halves on top.


China Ranch Date Farm – Tecopa, CA

5 Sep

“Yosemite NP is burning!!!!!!”, she said with a slight tinge of panic in her voice, “Will we be able to go there?!”. California’s scale remains an abstract concept in my mother’s mind. She lives in miniature Belgium, where a 90-min drive in either direction takes you across the border in a completely different country with a completely different language. I explained to her that the national park is roughly the size of Belgium & Northern France combined, and that the wild fire is blazing in an area smaller than her province alone. I also reminded her that she won’t be here until 4th Oct 2013, which is roughly 4 weeks from today… I haven’t yet told her about the flooding & washed out roads in Death Valley NP, as I feel that might put her nerves over the edge.

For the first time in our 13-year history of annual cross-Atlantic visits, we’re actually planning a more elaborate road trip over the Sierras. A trip the ‘Bank of Mom’ has graciously offered to sponsor, with the courtesy of a few gratuitous hotel nights I was able to secure through industry contacts. Mom has never been to a national park, and I’m already excited about seeing the awe-struck look on her face when she’s standing at the foot of Half Dome in Yosemite NP or squints her eyes over the desolate salt flats in Death Valley NP. We’re planning a 4-day loop from Los Angeles, over the Tioga Pass, to Mono Lake, Mammoth, Death Valley and back home. The idea of spending 4 days in a confined space with my mother is both thrilling and utterly terrifying. Will I be able to satisfy my dainty mother’s cleanliness standards in roadside bathrooms, and what if we eat lunch 10 min past 12 o’clock noon? Will the Government collapse if we eat… late?!

One of the places I’m particularly excited about visiting, is the China Ranch Date Farm.


I first heard about the ranch through C., who’s a friend and fellow-film producer of my beau. The ranch is an actively working date palm grove, located in a green lush oasis in the middle of the arid Mojave Desert, just South of Death Valley. I’ve always loved the sweet sugary stickiness of dates, and the idea of being in a place where they are grown and harvested just feet from where I’m standing, is almost too much foodie excitement for me to bear.

If you’re ever in the greater Las Vegas area, you too have got to check them out. The history and the gift shop with all of its ‘Olde World’ trinkets is worth the trip alone, but a stroll underneath the date palms is surely to be memorable.


(Above pictures are photo courtesy of Flickr)

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