Sunday, July 26, 2009

Potato Salad

“They call me Tater Salad.”
- Ron White, comedian

If I don't know what to make for a potluck event, I put together a potato salad. If I want to make something ahead to go with grilled meats or veggie burgers, I make potato salad. If I were going to plan a picnic, I'd plan potato salad. And the best part is that it doesn't have to be the same thing all the time. I make traditional potato salads with mayonnaise dressings, bell peppers, and hard boiled eggs. I make one with Chinese flavors. I've made one with barbecue sauce in it. And for lighter fare that has less chance of going "bad" if it sits out a while I've recently started making potato salads with vinaigrettes.

A lemon vinaigrette with lots of herbs from the container garden, which is now flourishing, is just right when I get some thin-skinned organic potatoes in our CSA box. In the recipe below, I used a mix of basil, tarragon, and lemon thyme. The little tickle of anise flavor from the tarragon compliments similar flavors in the basil, and the lemon thyme works well with, well, the lemon.

Besides, the lemon thyme is somehow significantly more prolific than common thyme in my humble porch garden.

You could use whatever herbs you like, or have readily available. I've also used green onions (scallions) in place of the sliced onions, or you could also use chives. Grilled vegetables such as zucchini or yellow squash, or possibly bell peppers would also be nice additions. Mixing the potatoes with the vinaigrette while they are still a little warm allows them to soak up some of the lemon and olive oil flavors. To peel or not to peel is up to you. When I can get my hands on thin-skinned, young, organic potatoes, I feel like doing more than scrubbing off the dirt is somehow and insult to the tuber.

I like having this extra addition to my potato salad repertoire, especially since it uses up lots of the herbs I planted in my springtime fit of over-ambition. Mayonnaise, Chinese flavors, or vinaigrettes, Ithink I'll have plenty of potato salad variations to keep me from getting bored all summer. I've been known to overcook a potato or two in preparation for salads, but that just makes the salad a little creamier. There's nothing wrong with a creamy potato salad.

Lemon Herb Potato Salad
Inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

2 pounds red potatoes, or other thin-skinned, potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons dill relish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, preferably lemon thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/3 cup sliced onion or chopped scallions or chives

1. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by a few inches. Cover the pot and bring to aboil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain and cool.

2. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest and juice, dill relish, salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined. Stir in basil, thyme and tarragon.

3. When the potatoes have cooled (preferably still a little warm) peel if desired and chop into 1-inch cubes. Add to the dressing in the bowl. Add the onions. Stir gently to coat the potatoes well. Taste for seasoning and add lemon juice or salt if necessary.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes about 6 servings.

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