A Giant Potato Pancake for Eat, Write, Retreat’s Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge

after the oven

Last year, I went to a bunch of food writer/blogger conferences in order to see beloved people, make some new friends, and help promote my book. In contrast, 2013 has shaped up to be a quieter year (which is fine by me). I’m skipping the bulk of the gatherings in order to spend a little more time at home and save my pennies for next summer’s book push. In fact, the only conference I’m participating in is Eat, Write, Retreat, which is landing in Philly in just a couple of weekends.

two russet potatoes

Part of the fun of Eat, Write, Retreat is that organizers start building the conference community well before everyone arrives at the DoubleTree. One of the ways that they’ve done this is by inviting everyone who registered before April 15 to participate in the Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge. Now, I’m not typically someone who gets excited about challenges and contests, but this one is a little different.


While there are prizes to be awarded at the conference, I actually felt like I won the moment the box arrived, thanks to all the OXO goodies (as well as a gorgeous assortment of potatoes) that it contained. Potatoes, graters, and ricers, oh my! What’s more, I’ve been needing something to shift me out of the cooking rut I’ve been in recently. Inventing an appetizing little dish featuring potatoes and using some of those new tools was just the boost I needed.


I grabbed the two large, russet potatoes from the basket (approximately 1 3/4 pounds) and got to work. I peeled then and shredded them on the coarse OXO grater that was in the box.

Any time I’m shredding just a pound or two of potatoes, I opt for a hand or box grater. It’s so much easier to clean than my food processor. Then, I bundled up the shreds in a tea towel and squeezed as much water out of them as possible. If you’ve ever made a latke, you know the drill.

on the stove top

Then I whisked together two eggs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, two tablespoons minced green onions, one tablespoon chopped dill, and several turns of a pepper grinder. While whisking, I also heated three tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet and heated my oven to 425 degrees F.

I added the potatoes to the batter and stirred until they were well combined. Then I spread the potato batter out in the hot skillet. It was quite thick, so I used my spatula to tease it out into an even layer. Do take care not to make a perfectly smooth surface, as it will brown better with a few crags and nooks.

closer potato disk

Once in the skillet, I cooked it over high heat on the stove top for about five minutes, until a peek at the bottom of the pancake told me it was just starting to brown. Then slide the skillet into the oven.

The trick with a giant potato pancake like this one is that you want to bake it first, until the interior is cooked, and then you turn on the broiler to get a really nice, crunchy top. Mine took approximately ten minutes of baking and another four of broiling before I was satisfied with the color and texture.

with toppings

Now comes the appetizer part. This potato pancake can actually go a couple of different ways in that department. For a cocktail party, you could slice it into slivers and top it with a number of delicious tidbits. The potato pancake is just as good at room temperature as it is hot, so works quite nicely on a table of finger foods.

In the picture, I’ve dolloped each wedge with a little bit of mascarpone cheese and then added something tasty on top (from top to bottom, you have last summer’s apricot jam, a grape tomato half, and a sprig of dill). Little strips of smoked salmon or trout would also be fantastic.

under eggs and mache

For a more perfectly plated appetizer, here’s another serving option. Cut the potato pancake into quarters. Top with some baby greens (I used mache) and a perfectly fried egg. The texture of the crunchy potato layer with the delicate leaves and runny egg is seriously great (I ate that plate right up as soon as I was finished with the photos).

It’s a good starter for fancy brunches or a farm to table-style dinner. It’s high in Vitamin C. And it’s also great for those folks who can’t manage a pasta course, due to wheat or gluten allergies. For those who have a jar in their pantry, a dab of tomato jam would not go amiss here.

How would you turn a giant potato pancake into an appetizer?

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Small Batch Strawberry Rhubarb Jam with Rose Flower Water

strawberry rhubarb jam

Every season, I find that I become infatuated with a new flavor enhancer for my batches of jam. I’ve previously gone through hot and heavy phases with cinnamon, vanilla, lavender, and star anise, and though we’re still early in the canning calendar, I predict that this is going to be the year of rose flower water.

macerating fruit

Right now, I’m seriously into this small batch of strawberry rhubarb jam with rose flower water. It’s essentially the same recipe as the one I contributed to Food 52 last week, but with a smidge less sugar and two glorious tablespoons of rose flower water. It is fragrant, sweet, and wonderful on a nutty slice of toast (it’s even more divine if you spread a layer of tangy fromage blanc between the toast and the jam).

cooking jam

Before I set you lose with the recipe, let’s talk for a moment about what I mean when I say rose flower water. This is not the rosewater that one daubs behind her ears, nor is it the tea rose perfume was so beloved by grandmothers the world over. It is a distillation of roses that is designed for culinary uses. And when used with economy, it is delightful. If you have any trouble tracking it down, try the Middle Eastern aisle of an international grocery store.

One final thing to know about rose flower water. It is somewhat fragile. As you’ll see in the recipe, you should add it at the very end of cooking, so that you don’t end up boiling way its fragrance.

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Jars on Vacation: Lancaster County and the Lehigh Valley

Lancaster Farm Fresh goods

In recent years, I’ve developed something of a habit of planning vacations to jar-friendly destinations and them coming back here to share what I saw. Recently, Scott and I spent a week bopping around Lancaster County and the Lehigh Valley, and really, there’s no better place for jar spotting.

preserves from Rooster Street Provisions

For the first half of our trip, we stayed in a fabulous condo across the street from Lancaster’s Central Market. On Tuesday morning, we zigzagged our way through the market (it’s only open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). Scott grazed on samples of baked goods while I snapped a few photos of jars.

smoked pepperoni sticks

I loved the preserves and charcuterie on offer at Rooster Street Provisions. I kicked myself that I didn’t get any of their cured meats.

yogurt in jars

I love that Linden Dale Farms is selling their yogurt in jars. They’re a type that is rated for home preserving, so not only can you get some delicious yogurt, but then you can turn around and can up some jam or pickles!

hot sauces

Hot sauces, jams, jellies, and pickles as far as the eye can see!

food in jars at Central Market

Amish-preserved foods. I used this photo as a header for a post recently, and a few folks thought it was my stuff. It’s not! So sorry for the confusion!


This photo is from our visit to Good’s Store in East Earl, PA. It’s one of my favorite places to guy jars, because they devote an entire aisle to canning gear and they’re always fully stocked. I loved this tower of the blue heritage jars and couldn’t help but pick up a couple boxes.

Wall of preserves!

On the last day of our trip, we were headed to a friend’s annual barbecue in Allentown and so stopped at the Allentown Farmers’ Market to pick up something to bring. I couldn’t resist snapping an Instagram photo of this wall of preserves.

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Giveaway: Kootsac Reusable Bulk Bags


There was a time when I regularly brought three or four jars with me every time I made a trip to Whole Foods, in order to buy various nuts, grains, and dried from the bulk section. However, I do most of my grocery shopping on foot and so lugging glass jars can start to get pretty darn heavy.

Several years back, I added a set of three light-weight, reusable bulk bin bags from Kootsac to my array of produce bags (if they sound familiar, it’s because I’ve mentioned them before) and have come to love them with a passion. They’re nearly weightless, so they don’t increase the amount you pay at check-out. They wash like a dream. And they appear to be nearly indestructible, as I’ve had mine for four years and they are showing no sign of wear at all.

Morgen, the creator of the Kootsac, is offering up a package of her reusable bags for a giveaway (scroll to the bottom of the post for details) and took the time to answer a few of my questions about her nifty product.

ripstop bags

Q: What inspired you to start making Kootsac?
A. I buy almost all my dry food from the bulk food section of my natural food stores. One of the top reasons why I do this was to save on packaging but I began to accumulate plastic bags. I would wash them and hang them to dry on my porch but, as most people who do this know, the bags become yucky after a few washes.

I searched online for reusable bulk food bags and could’nt find any – this was 6 years ago. I am a textile artist and designer so I have the skills to make them myself which is what I ended up doing. I feel like making Kootsac bags is one small thing that I can do to contribute to the movement towards living lighter on the planet.

Q: How many have you made since you started selling them?
A: I think I’ve sold about 8,000 bags since I started.

Q: How many plastic bags do you think your Kootsacs have kept from the landfills?
A: It’s hard to say how many bags have been kept from entering landfills but I can make an estimate based on my own usage. I use at least 5 bags a week, which in 6 years of use would have saved 1,500 bags from entering the landfill, so each bag would be worth 300 plastic bags in 6 years or 50 bags a year.

If I sold 8,000, then potentially Kootsac could have kept 400,000 bags from entering the landfill. Wow! I like those numbers! That’s provided that people who buy them use them, and of course some people may use them more or less times per week than I do.

reusable bulk bags

Q: What’s been the best comment from a Kootsac user about these bags?
A: I have had such amazing feedback from customers which makes this a hard question to answer, but here’s one I received very recently: ” I love Kootsacs! These are such fabulous bags I’ve been using for over a year now that I had to buy more!!! I save so much money buying my organics and whole grains in bulk and these bags work PERFECTLY for just about anything dry. They’re amazing!!! I save my bread tabs to use for closing up (more re-using!) which work perfectly, and I get so many complements on these. Thank you, again, for a truly beautiful product!!! :)”

Thanks to Morgen, I have three ripstop nylon bags, three silk bags, and a cotton produce bag (it’s also good for bread and bagels). Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite thing to buy in bulk.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, May 17, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday.
  3. Giveaway open to everyone.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Kootsac provided me with a sample set of bags, and is also providing an additional set for giveaway. However, no money changed hands and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Upcoming Classes: Glenside! Greensgrow! Blooming Glen Farm!

lilacs in a green bottle

Happy Monday, friends! I’ll be back later with the weekly giveaway post, but I wanted to drop in this morning and share a couple of events I’ve got on the schedule for the next seven days. I’ll have cookbooks with me for sale at all three of these events!

This Thursday, May 16, I’ll be at the Glenside Free Library in Glenside, PA at 6:30 pm to teach an introduction to pickling class. We’ll talk about hot pack, cold pack, and how to ensure a crisp pickle. This is a free event and there will be plenty of pickles to taste at the end of the evening.

On Saturday, May 18, I’m teaching a low-sugar strawberry mint jam class at Greensgrow (an urban farm in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood). The class is from 12 noon to 2 pm and costs just $35. Click here to sign up.

Finally, on Sunday, May 19, I’m teaching a strawberry vanilla jam class at Blooming Glen Farm in Perkasie, PA. This class is from 10 am – 12 noon and costs $50 per person. If you’ve never been, Blooming Glen is an impossibly beautiful farm and offers a lovely setting for a class. Click here to sign up.

Note: Registration for the classes this weekend is currently low, so in order to ensure that they goes forward, please sign up sooner rather than later.

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Links: Strawberries, Rhubarb, and a Cooking With Flowers Winner

May salad kit

My favorite farmers market opened for the season last weekend. I missed the first day because I was sleeping off the effects of food poisoning (which led straight into a week-long cold. The last month has been a doozy for me in terms of health), but I got out of bed this morning in plenty of time to fill my shopping bag with arugula, russian kale, asparagus, sorrel, green garlic, and an entirely indulgence cluster of fragrant lilac. Spring is here and it feels amazing.

Here are some of the links that tickled my fancy this week:

Cooking with Flowers cover

cooking with flowers winner Reading all your comments over the course of the last week on the Cooking With Flowers giveaway, about the many ways in which you guys eat flowers, made me continually hungry! Thank goodness spring is here and flowers are everywhere (even here in the city).

The winner is commenter #165, which is Linda. She said, “I like to add my arugula flowers to my salad.” Sounds delicious!

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