“You don’t like my potato salad….?”

That line was uttered by my mother and accompanied by her slowly making the sign of the cross, in a most dramatic fashion, as she often did when she heard something  she thought utterly preposterous.  I replied, “I didn’t say I didn’t like your potato salad, ma, rather I said I didn’t like any potato salad.” 

“But, the world goes crrrrazzzzy for my potato salad” (Insert thick Greek accent with appropriate r and z rollings of the tongue). It’s a vignette that Rand and I have played out countless times, and it never ceases to make us chuckle.

Actually, her potato salad is quite good.  I just can’t get past using  mayonnaise by itself as a dressing for any type of salad. Mayonnaise based salads make me choke with that cloying taste which never seems to clear your tongue. Whether it’s chicken salad or lobster salad or potato salad, store bought mayo is too thick, too rich and too much.

Better I think to combine equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise with a little buttermilk for texture.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and this “souraise” will coat any salad with a true dressing, sure to leave the tongue with a pleasant tang. I love it. 


I dreamed a dream kitchen

At night, when I turn off the lights and head upstairs, I take a last glance at the kitchen that I fantasized about for 18 months while this home was being designed and built.  At 440 square feet, it is my temple to gastronomy.  A six foot by 11 foot island topped by gleaming black walnut the color of dark caramel anchors the space.  The stainless applicances include two Thermidor Microwave, warming drawer/convection oven units, two ranges, one electric and one Viking four burner with a griddle, two sinks, one Kohler cook sink and two dishwashers.  The whole magilla is topped off by a Mugnaini Wood fired pizza oven in which the most delicious, most delectable pizzas are baked inside of three minutes. When am I happiest? When it’s full of people, family and friends, and the pizza is baking and the laughs are abundant. It would mean nothing without that.   

Pizza Passion


It all started with lunch. Ten or so years ago. Picture it, Dupont Circle, Washington DC….Pizzeria Paradiso.  A wood fired pizza oven blazed in the background while we awaited its tasty contents.  I was mesmerized. Upon our return to NYC, I obsessed over Google research about wood fired ovens for home use.  It turns out that there is a fairly large community out there in cyberspace who share stories and recipes all centering around their wood fired ovens! Who knew.

At Pizzeria Paradiso,  I decided at that moment, that one day, I too would have a wood fired oven in a kitchen. I didn’t know where the kitchen would be located, but I knew, as I know my own skin, that wood fired cooking would be the star attraction. 

And it is. Fast forward ten years, to Erwinna PA, and my Mugnaini pizza oven turns out the most delicious pizzas this side of Naples.  A bit of flour, a bit of obsession and the belief that throwing something out into the universe is a powerful exercize.

Mugnaini Imports specializes in the importing of Valoriani ovens from Italy. The ovens are made of refractory clay and are shipped from a distribution center in California.  The oven itself comes disassembled, and with the assistance of a stone mason, can be built free standing outside or as an addition to your current kitchen. 

www.mugnaini.com/ovens/ovensMAIN.html for a collection of ovens including ours in Erwinna, PA.

Fueled by hardwood, the oven reaches optimum temperature in about two hours, after which it will bake pie after pie in about three minutes.  This is the uber kitchen appliance.  I am so grateful to have one and it just thrills me to fill the house with people and let them share in the experience. It’s cooking the way it used to be, and the smell of embers and ash all add to the feel of it.  It’s just indescribable.