Season II: Sheila Spector

 

Sheila Spector has lived and cooked all over the U.S., both in her own kitchen, in commercial kitchens, culinary shops, synagogues, and community centers. A dyed-in-the-wool cook, Sheila once sold her rugula to Dean & Deluca in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. and continues to sell it each year at San Luis Obispo’s Apples & Honey Festival, hosted by the Jewish Community Center Federation. Sheila and I talked about baking cakes without yeast or flour during Passover, her mother’s legacy, and about her blog, dinneratsheilas.com, which she started on a whim.

Sheila has also graciously provided the recipe for her Vermont Potato Salad, which she sold and became famous for in Chicago.

Vermont Potato Salad
Sheila Spector

This is one of my favorite recipes. I’ve been making it for many years, and even sold it to a deli in Evanston, Illinois when we were living in Chicago. I prefer to cut the potatoes in large chunks. You can use a variety of potatoes, but I like small red potatoes, or new potatoes if available. Cook just until a sharp knife can easily go through the potatoes. Cooking to the proper doneness is key.

You can peel the potatoes or leave the skin on, but cut them while still warm, and allow them to sit with the white wine vinegar, coarse kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. The potatoes will more fully absorb the flavor from the vinegar, salt and pepper if dressed while warm.

The recipe below is the original recipe. I have made it using 10 and even 20 pounds of potatoes , just increase the ingredients accordingly.

  • 6 medium size potatoes or about 2 and 1/2 to 3 pounds new potatoes

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 cup homemade or store bought mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s or Best canola oil mayo)

  • Cream or juice of ½ fresh lemon (I use fresh lemon juice) enough to thin the mayonnaise

  • 2 or more scallions, minced with some green (more if you like)

  • 2 tablespoons diced green pepper

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup minced fresh Italian parsley mixed with minced fresh basil, tarragon, or dillweed (I use fresh parsley and fresh dill, and am generous with the herbs)

Scrub potatoes and boil in their jackets in salted water for 25- 40 minutes. Less time for new potatoes. When a very sharp paring know goes in and out smoothly potatoes are done. Drain, let cool a bit and then peel, or leave skin on, and cut in large chunks. Toss with white wine vinegar, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper while still warm. Gently fold in the mayo you have thinned with the lemon juice or cream Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Add scallions, green pepper, and fresh herbs. Toss to coat well. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature to serve. Toss again gently and taste for seasoning.

 
Jaime Lewis