Potatoes

Potato salads are a summer staple, whether I’m making them from jawbreaker-size potatoes stolen from row edges while checking the potato plants’ progress or full-grown spuds cut down to size. They go beautifully with summer’s green beans, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snaps. But we grow so many storage potatoes that it seems a shame to give up the salads just because the other fresh produce is long gone. This version uses stored veggies, making it a late-season or even midwinter go-to. The salad itself is quite basic, and a few unconventional techniques make it a snap. Inspired by traditional salads I ate regularly as I traveled in Russia and France—salad Olivier and salade niçoise, respectively—I’ve created two dressings that bring distinctly different flavors to the forefront; I sometimes alternate between the two salad dressings for several weeknight meals.

Potatoes
First, the salad. Salads are incredibly simple yet extremely versatile. The directions for this one could simply read: Boil the potatoes, hard-boil the eggs, and throw everything in a bowl. But there are a few other considerations if you want to eat potato salad all winter long. We grow about 100 pounds of spuds each year and have found they store best if we just give them a quick brush-off before stashing them away and then clean them more thoroughly as we use them. Even if you purchase spuds, you probably want to give them a quick wash.

Basic Potato Salad

  • Servings: 3–6 portions
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
2 pounds potatoes
2–4 tablespoons white vinegar
3–6 eggs
4 ounces Definitely Dilly Beans or Better Bread-and-Butter Pickles, cut into bite-size pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, halved if large (about 1/4 cup)
4 small carrots, cut into short matchsticks
Russian Salad Dressing or French Salad Dressing

Place the potatoes in a colander set into a large bowl, fill with cold water, and then pour off the dirty water. If the potatoes are large enough to clean individually, gently scrub off the dirt with a semicoarse brush, rinse again, and cut into bite-size pieces. For tiny potatoes, return them to the bowl and refill it with hot tap water and 2–4 tablespoons of white vinegar. Let the potatoes sit 10 minutes, and then cover the bowl with another bowl, lid, or tray and shake over the sink for 30–60 seconds before draining.

Fill a large pot with water and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the potatoes sit for 1 hour, and then check for doneness and drain; if they are not tender, replace the lid on the pot, letting the potatoes sit until the water cools to room temperature before draining.

For the eggs, bring a small pot of water to a full boil, and then turn it down so that the bubbles are just breaking the water’s surface. Use a slotted spoon to gently add 3–6 eggs, one for each portion you plan on serving. Return the water to a boil, and then cook the eggs for 10 minutes. Just before the eggs are done, fill a large bowl with cold water, and then immediately add each egg gently. Remove when cooled, and then peel and slice.

Put all ingredients except the eggs in a bowl; mix gently to combine. Pour Russian Salad Dressing or French Salad Dressing over the salad, and mix gently again. Divide among bowls, laying slices of hard-boiled egg atop each serving. Serves 3 as a main salad or 6 as a side salad or with fish.

Tips & Tricks
  • Most of the tricks are in the directions for this recipe. I often use these techniques to clean and boil several pounds of potatoes and extra eggs in one go and then incorporate them into multiple recipes during the week.
  • I typically grow several varieties of potatoes with red, yellow, and purple skins, which make a colorful mix in this salad. If you’re using potatoes with purple flesh, boil them whole; it helps to retain their color.
  • This salad can be made in season, using fresh beans and the baby carrots that you pull to thin your crop. In summer, I also like to use 4 ounces of fresh cherry tomatoes, blending just half into the French Salad Dressing, instead of the frozen toms, and serve it over a bed of arugula and other greens. If sugar snap peas are weighing down the vines, consider throwing those in as well. If you forego pickled vegetables in your salad, add 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, or more to taste, to your chosen dressing.
  • Vegetarians will find Basic Potato Salad with Russian Salad Dressing quite filling, but pescatarians may want to incorporate grilled or smoked tuna or salmon, top it with French Salad Dressing, and stretch the meal to feed 6 people. For a party, make a quadruple batch of salad and a double batch of each dressing—just like that, you have two large salads for the table.

Twice as Tasty

If salads are incredibly simple yet extremely versatile, salad dressings are even more so. These dressings were inspired by salad Olivier and salade niçoise, which despite being poured over the same salad are at almost opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. As I learned while living in St. Petersburg, many Russians are not fans of heat: My friends there barely touched my shrimp etouffee, but they gobbled up with my childhood macaroni and cheese. Most of the potato salads I ate there were dressed with sour cream, dill, and parsley.

In contrast, traveling in France solidified my impression that the French are all about flavor. Their vinaigrettes tend to feature garlic and fresh herbs. The dressings presented here take each of these themes and adapt them to staples in my kitchen. Use them over Basic Potato Salad, any other veggies, or even as a marinade for fish or shellfish.

Russian Salad Dressing

  • Servings: about 3/4 cup
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Print
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients; stir or blend until the flavors are combined. Pour half of the dressing over Basic Potato Salad and mix gently; add more dressing as desired. Refrigerate any leftover salad dressing and use it within a week. Makes about 3/4 cup.

French Salad Dressing

  • Servings: about 3/4 cup
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Print
4 ounces frozen cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
2 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Defrost the cherry tomatoes and puree all solids and juice. Add all other salad dressing ingredients, except for the olive oil, to the blender or food processor, and then puree until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil; puree until it is fully incorporated. Add a little water if the dressing is too thick. Pour half of the dressing over Basic Potato Salad and mix gently; add more dressing as desired. Refrigerate any leftover salad dressing and use it within a few weeks. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Tips & Tricks
  • Either of these salad dressings can be made in season with fresh herbs; simply use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.
  • If using fresh cherry tomatoes, in or out of season, add 2 ounces, whole or halved, to the salad. Puree the remaining 2 ounces in a blender or food processor.
  • If you are firing up the grill to add salmon or tuna to this dish, throw a head of garlic on as well and use 2 cloves of Roasted Garlic instead of fresh; the roasting will mellow the garlic’s bite and give your salad dressing a whole other dimension of flavor.
  • As with Basil Pesto Base, you can use the power of your blender or food processor to mix in the olive oil. But if you find a bitter aftertaste in your salad dressing, mix in the oil by hand; this gives you all of the flavor of the extra-virgin pressing without breaking up fat molecules that release bitter polyphenols from the oil.

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