Nope, never liked it. A gunky mix of over-cooked potatoes, mayonnaise and/or yellow mustard, pickle relish and maybe a dash of hot sauce. Yuck. I grew up the outcast at the family picnic table, the ugly American child who turned up her nose at a sacred patriotic dish. Then, I noticed (somewhere in my 30’s, I suspect) that potato salad had changed. More likely, my awareness of food and cooking had grown.
My first attempt at giving potato salad a re-try was inspired by Annie Somerville, celebrated chef of the famous Greens Restaurant in San Francisco and her best-selling Fields of Greens cookbook. Chef Somerville has a recipe that combines roasted yellow fin potatoes and fresh artichoke hearts with a lovely light vinaigrette. I tried a version of this salad, and I was on my way back to waving the flag. From that moment on, I’ve sought out and tried all kinds of “potato salad” (But no, I never developed a taste for the pasty yellow stuff most everyone else loves.).
My latest potato-salad find came from the July 2016 issue of FEAST—just love this local resource, under the creative direction of Catherine Neville, a person who speaks straight to my heart about celebrating local artisan food and the priceless appeal of community eating and cooking. In this month’s issue, writer, chef and food blogger Sherrie Castellano came up with a scrumptious Pesto Potato Salad with Kale recipe that I will be trying the minute my basil is ready for harvest. This potato salad is sure to please everyone around the table—even Don, who will never realize it contains kale, I’m sure.
Once I was done drooling over the recipe, I took a few minutes to read Castellano’s article, and the irony was simply delightful. She’s been apologizing, too, for loving “classic American potato salad—you know, the type that’s prepared in the deli section, the kind your grandmother makes, loaded with mayonnaise, mustard, celery and sometimes dill.” She calls her fondness for this dish “a deep, dark secret.” So in some ways, she and I have been potato-salad apologizing for some time—just from opposite ends of the table.
Last week I found fresh leeks and young Rose Gold potatoes at Biver Farms market booth–both potato salad possibilities. Leeks are one of my favorite vegetables—they can do anything from soups to salads to pasta. Elegant, fresh, sweet and sometimes slightly spicy, I think they elevate simple meals with little effort. So, why couldn’t they elevate potato salad? Worth a try, especially with creamy little Rose Gold potatoes, perfect for steaming, which is how I started my Green Gal Potato Salad with Grilled Leeks and Heirloom Tomatoes.
- Two to three pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
- Eight to 10 young leeks, split in half lengthwise and thoroughly rinsed to remove all dirt and grit. These will be easier to grill if you keep the sturdier outer layers intact while you grill and then discard/trim before serving.
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- One teaspoon sea salt
- One cup good quality Kalamata or Gaeta olives, drained.
- One pint cherry heirloom tomatoes, rinsed and left whole.
- Fat: one-half cup olive oil
- Acid: one-quarter cup red wine vinegar and two tablespoons lemon juice
- Seasonings: one teaspoon each minced fresh tarragon and oregano, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Accessorize with one large clove garlic, minced, a sprinkle of diced chives and one tablespoon Dijon mustard
- One-half cup toasted pine nuts and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Begin by slicing your potatoes in half (or fourths if they are larger) and steaming them until tender. Set aside.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high. Brush the cut side of your leeks generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place cut side down on your grill grate (Our grate surface is wide, so we used some aluminum foil to keep the leeks from falling through. Grill basket is on my shopping list.). Grill the leeks until they are soft, caramelized and slightly charred, about 10 to 15 minutes. Check often so they do not burn. We did not turn them over to finish the cooking, so they were somewhat chewy but had fabulous flavor—sweet and rich. Set aside
- To make the dressing, put the vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl or a food processor with the herbs, salt and pepper, garlic and Dijon. Whisk/process to thoroughly combine. While continually whisking, add your oil in a steady small stream to create a stable emulsion. If using a processor, run on low speed and stream in the oil through the feed tube. Once the emulsion is stable, about a minute or so, it’s good to go. Sprinkle in the chives.
- Place the potatoes, leeks, tomatoes and olives in a large pretty serving bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat all the vegetables (Rearrange your veggies for presentation, if necessary.). Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
To serve, spoon a helping of each vegetable onto dinner plates. Note that the preparation time does not include steaming the potatoes--about 20 to 25 minutes--or grilling the leeks--approximately 20 minutes start to finish.
To serve this sort of deconstructed potato salad, spoon a helping of each vegetable onto dinner plates. Goes great with grilled cod or roast chicken.
I realize that for some people, this is not potato salad. It’s just that it is as close as I’m willing to go, while still being green, healthy and (not really) brave. Besides, this version of potato salad is very healthy, just like the one featured in FEAST. A combination of both flavor and wellness—a win-win!
One of the reasons I called the dressing above a Mediterranean Capsule dressing is that it makes good use of olive oil, fresh herbs and wine vinegar, ingredients that tend to show up in descriptions of the much-talked about Mediterranean Diet. Further, the salad uses some of the diet’s signature produce—olives, potatoes, tomatoes and pine nuts.
If the Mediterranean Diet has captured your interest and you’d like to learn more, I suggest you check out Delicious Living Magazine’s recent book review of The Complete Mediterranean Diet: Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease by Dr. Michael Ozner. You can trust this review because it is provided by Delicious Living’s staff of meticulous researchers, who do the legwork for you before you purchase. This review is written by Jessie Shafer, RD, the magazine’s editor in chief. You can also sign up for Delicious Living Magazine’s weekly e-newsletter and get up-to-date diet, health and environmental information right in your Inbox. Sweet!
So, how do you spell p-o-t-a-t-o s-a-l-a-d?