Over the years, potato salads have been comforting dishes that also included an element of surprise.
The only common denominator is that they've contained potatoes.
Some common ingredients include onion (red, white or scallions), celery or celery seed, chopped sweet (or dill) pickle, fresh parsley or dill, capers, hard-cooked eggs, cucumbers, mustard, fresh ground pepper and, up until the current no-fat epidemic, lots of creamy mayonnaise. More modern options include a little bit of mayonnaise blended into a lot of plain yogurt with or without a mild vinegar or commercial low-fat dressing.
Then come the extras.
There can be bits of leftover meat (pork, beef or chicken) or seafood (tuna, shrimp or lobster). Or leftover vegetables: carrots, beets, peas among them. Even curry, apples and raisins.
Back in the days when bacon was a breakfast staple, potato salads often contained warm bacon fat along with some bits of leftover bacon, chopped wilted spinach, a healthy sprinkling of vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
Jalapeno Potato Salad
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 -inch cubes
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 3.5-ounce can pitted black olives, drained and chopped
1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced, about 3/4 cup
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely sliced
Place potatoes in three-quart saucepan or Dutch oven and pour in cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain. Meanwhile, in large bowl combine mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil. Add potatoes, olives, scallions, feta cheese and peppers. Toss to mix well. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves six.
2 cups peeled, diced and cooked potatoes
2 cups peeled, diced and cooked carrots
1 cup peeled, diced tart apple
1 cup minced dill pickles
1/3 cup minced onion (or to taste)
2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped (or 1 cup sour cream)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
Dash of salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked, peeled and diced beets
Hard-cooked eggs, sliced (optional)
Mix the diced potatoes, carrots, apple, pickles and onion in a large serving bowl. Chill. Combine whipped cream, lemon juice and seasonings and chill. Add the beets to the other vegetables just before serving so the salad will be the proper light pink color. Serve the dressing in a small serving bowl, mound it on top of the salad or fold it into the salad just before serving. Decorate with slices of hard-cooked egg, if you wish. Serves six to eight.
-- "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant," by The Moosewood Collective, Simon and Schuster, 1990.
Potato Cucumber Salad
4 large potatoes, boiled, skinned and sliced 1/4 -inch thick
1 small English cucumber, sliced thin
2 cups plain yogurt
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh coriander (optional)
Place potatoes and cucumber slices in large bowl. Combine yogurt, onion, cumin, chili powder, pepper, salt, parsley and coriander and add to potato-cucumber mixture. Gently mix and chill at least one hour before serving. Serves four.
Potato Pesto Pork Salad
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 cup fresh broadleaf parsley, washed and dried
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 clove garlic
12 blanched almonds
12 walnut halves
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup olive oil
6 medium potatoes
3 cups cold cooked pork, cut julienne
Large black Italian or Greek olives, pitted and halved
Place basil, parsley, cheeses, pine nuts, garlic, almonds, walnuts, butter and olive oil in food processor or blender and process until you have a smooth green sauce. This will make about two cups. Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender, drain and dry over heat in a pan. Peel if you wish, then cut into chunks. Place potatoes and pork in large bowl and add just enough of the pesto sauce to lightly coat all the ingredients when lightly tossed.
Curried Potato Salad
5 medium potatoes, cooked and cooled
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
2 stalks celery, stringed and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (regular, low-calorie or fat-free) or 1/2 cup mayonnaise mixed with 1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons raisins, plumped in a little warm water, sherry or a combination of the two
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
Coarsely chop potatoes and put in large mixing bowl. Melt butter in small pan and add onion. Cook until onions are translucent. Add curry powder and allspice and mix thoroughly before cooking another two minutes. Remove from heat. Add apple and celery to potatoes. Combine mayonnaise with drained raisins, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cooked curry mixture. Spoon over potato mixture, then toss gently to combine all ingredients. Let rest at room temperature for an hour before serving. Serves six.