Ode to My Irish Family

When I married Stephen Joseph Saunders in 2008, I married into his large Irish family. My mother-in-law Anita Saunders is the proud and classy matriarch. Her younger brother Tom Murnan, at whose house we gathered last night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, is equally proud in his custom designed T-shirt. Love it!
Together, they and my father-in-law, Dusty Saunders, set a cheerful, nostalgic tone. “If I had the money,” said Uncle Tom, “I’d bring each and everyone one of you to Ireland.”
He’s the kind of person that really would do that. We Jews say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For the Irish it’s “Next year in Dublin.” We are, after all, tribal people.
A big family trip to Ireland isn’t happening just yet, but how good it was to celebrate with stories of trips past, and a fascinating presentation of the family’s lineage organized by none other than my brother-in-law Bryan, who has the heart of an Irish Saint.

Now for the food! Naturally we had corned beef. But not just any corned beef: we feasted on Aunt Joanie’s Corned Beef & Cabbage. My cousin Tracy is the daughter of Uncle Tom and Aunt Joan (of blessed memory) and responsible for the delicious meal.

Here she is testing the corned beef before carving it.

Aunt Joanie’s Corned Beef & Cabbage
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
6 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
1  flat corned beef brisket (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon pickling spice
6  sprigs thyme
1/2 head green cabbage, cut into wedges
1/4 cup Irish whiskey


In a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker, place celery, carrots, onion, and thyme. Place corned beef , fat side up, on top of vegetables and sprinkle with pickling spice; add enough water to almost cover meat (4 to 6 cups). Cover and cook on high until corned beef is tender, 4 1/4 hours (or 8 1/2 hours on low). Arrange cabbage over corned beef, cover, and continue cooking until cabbage is tender, 45 minutes (or 1 1/2 hours on low).  Pour whiskey over cabbage for last 15-20 minutes. Thinly slice corned beef against the grain and serve with vegetables, cooking liquid, and grainy mustard.  Note: Double, Triple or Quadruple this recipe as needed.  By all means, serve with mashed potatoes and a side of sautéed carrots and cabbage. 







While not really my holiday, it’s hard not to feel festive with this family. So I prepared an altogether different dish, not necessarily Irish, but a healthy, colorful chopped salad with smoked salmon, arugula, tomatoes, roasted pepitas and other garnish. “Looks like the colors of the Irish flag,” someone remarked.

Stetson Chopped Salad


1/2 cup (2 oz) Israeli (pearl) couscous, cooked
1/2 cup (2 oz) Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup (1 oz) super-sweet dried corn
1/2 cup (2oz) arugula, chopped
2 ounces smoked salmon, diced
1/2 oz asiago cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup dried black currants

1/2 cup basil pesto
1 cup aioli (Note: If you cannot find commercially prepared aioli and don`t want to make your own, you can substitute mayonnaise, or use 1 cup olive oil, drizzled in very slowly with motor running so the mixture emulsifies. It should thicken further with refrigeration.
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 cup buttermilk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Salt to taste


In a shallow bowl, assemble the salad ingredients in rows. Start with tomatoes or arugula at one end; push previous row back with one hand as you place and line up the next ingredient with the other hand.


Add first three ingredients to food processor and blend thoroughly. With motor running, pour in buttermilk. Add remaining ingredients to combine. If using prepared pesto, taste before adding additional salt. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Note: If pearl couscous is unavailable, substitute a tiny pasta like ditalini. I used orzo and it was just fine. I also used canned sweet corn only because I had it in my pantry. I also used far less mayonnaise, so prepare the dressing to taste.

What are family gatherings without the young-ins? Here are my twins Casey and Rebecca with their adorable cousin Cooper David Saunders. Go Green!







Finally, because it would be remiss of me not to mention, our 21-year-old son Dylan is studying in Barcelona for his spring semester abroad. Where do you think he’s celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Dublin! Life at full circle…..