First and foremost, vacation with my family, including Rachel and John and the Divine Miss M, was beyond wonderful. Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks is one of the world’s magical places and for two weeks I disconnected more than I have in four years. Proof? I just turned on my work email and discovered that my official away message actually did not go live and that means the 868 emails I received — many from people I actually care about what they think about me because oh we work together regularly — all think I just ignored them for multiple emails and resending of emails for two whole weeks. Yup re-entry today (when you read this) is going to be AWESOME.
But in the meantime I’m back to cooking and since it’s summer, I’m thinking potato salad. I’ve got a tried-and-true recipe from my mother but I was in the mood for something a little different. This recipe is inspired by something I read in Food Network Magazine. It has bacon aka it’s awesome. Enjoy
It’s been a mostly freakishly warm spring here in the Northeast and probably yet another sign the end of the world is coming (not to get dramatic or anything). But the upside of all this strange warmth is that plant life has been crazy lush and way ahead of schedule, and we’ve been able to sit outside and enjoy the patio and grill. (And sip my official drink of summer — the venerable gin and tonic). While I won’t be grilling on our patio this Memorial Day (although I might be on Nantucket, which is where we are spending this lovely long weekend), I thought I’d pull up a few of our best summer salads from the past to inspire you to great barbecue feats. Potato salad of course will get lead billing because it is one of my favorite salads ever and I’ve been jonesing for it for a while.
Getting together with a few friends on a warm summer night, eating good food, and catching up over drinks is absolutely one of my favorite ways to send dusk into darkness. Here’s hoping today is just the beginning of innumerable nights like that for you, your family and friends.
Janet here: Regular readers know that I have a thing for potato salad. I wrote of my love for it here, which started when I was a child and has basically continued ever since. Summer is just an excuse to eat a lot of potato salad (and ice cream, but not together of course) in my book.
Anyway, if you’re looking for an alternative to the mayonnaise rendition, this one could be just what the doctor ordered. It’s got a little zing, thanks to the mustard, and is ridiculously easy to make. I served it up with marinated grill shrimp and tomato mush (another fabulous Reynolds specialty coming your way soon so get excited).
Red Potato and Green Bean Salad
6 side servings.
3 pounds of red potatoes, halved
about 1/2 pound of green beans, de-tipped and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the beans in a large saucepan of boiling water for about 4 minutes. Drain and stick in iced water to stop the cooking.
Halve the potatoes and cook in boiling water until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the vermouth, toss and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk the vinegar, onion and mustard in a small bowl. then pour over the potatoes. Cool completely. Add the green beans and parsley. Season to taste. Can be served cold or at room temperature
Rachel here: Our response to the oil spill (which started-ugh!-over 100 days ago now) was to start featuring a meatless dish every Monday. The thing is, though, that we’ve been featuring meatless dishes all along. Many of our best, in fact, pre-date Meatless Mondays. Though we’ve never done this before, today we are offering you a list of ten of our favorite dishes we’ve offered so far. Bookmark this page and you’ll be able to access a list of meatless dishes every Monday so you and yours can join us in doing our small part to show the planet that we love it. Just click on the dish to be linked to the recipe. What’s your favorite meat-free meal?
1. Acorn Squash with Wild Mushroom Cranberry Stuffing
2. Butternut Squash Flatbread with Cheddar and Pine Nuts
3. Fig Bran Muffins
4. Clementine Coffee Cake Muffins with Almond Streusel
5. Fried Goat Cheese Medallions
6. Quick and Easy Quiche
7. Mushroom and Olive Pasta Sauce
8. Homemade Pasta
9. Potato Salad
10. Spring Bean Salad
Janet here: One of the stories of my childhood that was told repeatedly around family gathering dinner tables — sometimes to great embarrassment, depending on my age and who was at the table — was of me and my grandmother Doree’s potato salad. I really loved my grandmother’s potato salad. I mean really loved it. One day while visiting my grandmother when I was around 4, I decided I didn’t want to wait until it was time for dinner to dig into this delicious concoction. So I wandered out to the kitchen, climbed up on a chair and dug in, using the serving spoon that was already in the salad. I was a happy camper … until my grandmother discovered me and put a stop to the dining — and promptly told all the relatives who were there what I was doing. And so a family tale is born.
I’ve basically been trying to recreate that potato salad ever since. I pay attention to potato salads at restaurant and am quick to dismiss the substandard mayo-y glop that passes for potato salad after one bite. My mom made a good version, but nothing has quite equaled the ambrosia I remember from my childhood. I’m not sure I’ve recreated Doree’s version, but I’m pretty happy with the one I have created. I hope you enjoy it too. As with many of my recipes, these measurements are approximations. You should feel free to add or delete, depending on your taste. After all, isn’t tasting what you’re making part of the fun of cooking?
makes about 8 side servings
4 Russet potatoes, skins on, and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, slit lengthwise and diced
2 kosher dill pickle spears, slit lengthwise and diced
1 tablespoon kosher dill pickle juice
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2-3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potato pieces until just done, about 5-10 minutes. You don’t want them overcooked or you will have potato mush
While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and celery and place into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients except the salt and pepper.
When the potatoes are done, drain and rinse immediately in cold water to stop the cooking. Add the cooled potatoes to the other ingredients, toss and add salt and pepper to taste. I like my potato salad crunchy so at this point, I take the first of a few (okay maybe several) bites to make sure I’ve got enough celery in there. If not, I add another diced stalk.
This is best served cold so make it ahead of time. I always taste again before serving to see if I want to add more caraway, mustard or mayo — at least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Rachel here: Ok, so before I go any further, I just have to say that my ma makes seriously grubbing potato salad. Growing up, I used to eat it with my fingers out of the fridge when I’d walk through the kitchen. I think I’m going to have to make her make it for me when she comes out to visit and meet the baby.
But anyway, I didn’t make potato salad and so, though I’m dreaming of my mom’s, I guess I’d better share the salad that I did make. I’m calling it Spring Bean Salad, though if you live in a less temperate climate it might really be a summer bean salad depending on when the various ingredients I use come into season. Regardless, it’s a super easy and delicious dish. And, though it’s not my ma’s potato salad, I’ve still been picking at it when I walk through the kitchen all day.
3 c. cannellini beans (if using canned, rinse and dry well; if cooking them yourself, be sure not to overcook)
1/2 c. kalamata olives, halved
2 medium cucumbers, chopped
1 smallish red onion, diced very small (but not minced)
4-5 large basil leaves, torn (I tear basil instead of cutting it because cutting it releases its delicious oils onto your knife and cutting board. When torn, everything ends up in your food.)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. feta, crumbled
8 oz. mozzarella, chopped
juice from 1 large and 1 small lemon
salt and pepper
apple cider vinegar
Put all of the ingredients from the beans through the mozzarella in a large bowl. Toss by hand (this is a gentler way to combine ingredients and will help everything hold up since there are largely soft foods involved). Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar to taste. Toss well and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for a few hours so everything settles. Enjoy!