641 DEW – The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible

The book that starts off our Dewey Decimal sub-classification of “cookery” is The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach.  I was excited to have spice come up so soon, because I’ve only recently begun enjoying spicy food.  Mainly, I think, due to the lack of decent Buffalo wings in central Indiana.  (Not that there aren’t any, they’re just harder to find.)  When I lived in WNY, I usually opted for Boss Sauce, another regional favorite, more sweet and tangy than hot.  Now that I’ve moved away, I’ve taken to keeping a bottle of Frank’s in the fridge and using it for everything from salad dressing to gravy.  (Note: I said FOR, not IN.)  But I digress.  We’ll get to wings some other time, I’m sure.

As I said, I was excited to review this book, because the extent of my knowledge about spice is pretty limited to Frank’s and other forms of chile peppers.  I hoped to find some information about other forms of spices.  The book did not disappoint.  There’s a section at the front which provides history, cultural, nutrition and preparation information on all kinds of spices, from ginger and wasabi to mustard, black pepper, curries, and more.  Various types of chile peppers are discussed as well, including Italian, French and Spanish varieties.

The inclusion of wasabi, in particular, was interesting, as wasabi is, apparently, rather rare and very hard to grow.  Most of what passes for wasabi is standard horseradish, colored green.  Discovering this, it was nice to see general cultivation, storage, and preparation information provided regardless.  Ginger, on the other hand grows fairly easily, but has lost its ability to reproduce without human-intervention to divide the rhizomes.

Recipes start with preparation of spicy seasonings and condiments, then move through ethnic foods to barbecue, vegetarian, and even dessert.  No preference seems to be given to one spicy ingredient over another, with maybe a slight exception toward chile peppers, though not enough to make the book seem unbalanced.  There are plenty of recipes included for those wishing to move beyond the familiar.

That said, I did allow the familiar to creep into my recipe selection.  My parents’ fridge always had jar of horseradish sitting in the door, though I’d never more than tried it.  Potato salad is pure comfort food.  Spicing it up with horseradish sounded tasty.

But, I must watch too much Top Chef or something, because I got to thinking that I could tweak the recipe without ever having made it in the first place.  I mean, it’s potato salad, right?  I didn’t have enough potatoes, so I thought I’d throw in a few beets.  Some people might appreciate the outcome.  I thought it was a big mistake.

The beets soaked up a lot of the vinegar and tasted pickled.  Which, again, is OK if you like pickled beets.  They also turned the whole dish bright pink.  It was kind of pretty with the flecks of green dill, but did not look at all appetizing.  The potatoes, however, tasted awesome.  So, I had to try again.

The second batch, using only potatoes, was delicious.  You definitely need to give this a day or two in the fridge for the flavors to meld.  The horseradish soaks right into the potatoes and every bite has spice.  I substituted plain yogurt for sour cream, and  I don’t suspect it made much difference.

Here are some bad photos of the process, because food blogs are supposed to have those things.  The dressing was actually really pretty.  I wish you could see it in the photo.  Next time I’ll ditch the camera phone and dig out the digital.

Horseradish Potato Salad

  • 3-4 Medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2-3 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2-3 tbsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 c. fresh or 2-3 tbsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/4 c. chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp. chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. chives (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

In a saucepan or pressure cooker, cook the potatoes until done.  Remove from the heat, drain, and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle the vinegar over the potatoes and gently toss to mix.  Allow the potatoes to cool at room temperature.

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, and dill.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

To serve, add the celery, onion, parsley, and chives to the potatoes, and gently toss to mix.  Pour the dressing over the top, and again, gently toss to mix.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

DeWitt, D., and N. Gerlach. “Horseradish Potato Salad.” Recipe. The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible. New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 2005. 226.