A FRESH OPTION FOR ALFRESCO DINING
On the first day of spring this year I went to a barbecue. I brought homemade potato salad.
Normally, something like that is nothing to write about (posts on a good many social media feeds notwithstanding). But in New York City, where I live, these times of Covid are anything but normal.
This barbecue was only the third in-person social engagement I’ve had this year. It was just the second time I have been to anyone’s home since last fall. But with warmer weather here at last and more and more of us getting vaccinated, it looks like this winter of our collective pandemic discontent will soon (hopefully) be a dim memory.
Nevertheless, I suspect we’ll keep meeting up outside as much as possible as we transition into our post-Covid lives-and fingers crossed, by the way, that we are indeed finally making that transition. Of all the restrictions we’ve had to face, for me, forgoing indoor activities in favor of outdoor socializing has been the least painful. Picnics and barbecues have always been my favorite kind of party. I love the relaxed vibe, I love being outside, and I love how food tastes when it’s cooked on the grill.
When I was a growing up in New Jersey, barbecues meant hamburgers, hot dogs, and mayonnaise-drenched potato salad. Now so much has changed in all directions of our food universe. Grilling incorporates wildly diverse options from many cultures-from the American South and way beyond. And while I won’t turn up my nose at a creamy potato salad, it’s far from being only game in town as it was during my childhood.
So I had countless options for what to make for this barbecue. I wanted a potato salad recipe that tasted like spring and would go well with the grilled meat skewers and asparagus my host was serving. I chose an Herbed New Potato Salad with a mustardy vinaigrette from Catherine Walthers’s creative salad cookbook “Raising the Salad Bar,” published by Lake Isle Press. It’s a fresh and inviting summer salad recipe that feels like it’s a step away from the everyday.
I blanched some fresh green beans, cut them in 1 ½-inch pieces, and added them to the potato salad to make it an even greater ode to spring. Since I was making this dish a few hours ahead, I held off incorporating the herbs so they wouldn’t get soggy, and added the vinaigrette while the potatoes and beans were still hot so they’d absorb the flavors more fully. I wrapped some chives, parsley, and dill in wet paper towels and packed them along with the salad; after I got to my friend’s place and we were ready to eat, we chopped and added the still-fresh herbs at the last minute. Perfect.
Cooking can help you feel better. Being outside can help you feel better. Let’s combine them as often as we can as we emerge from our individual Covid cocoons. That emergence, for all of us, will definitely be something to write about.
HERBED NEW POTATO SALAD RECIPE
2 pounds new potatoes, such as fingerling, red, and/or purple
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1. To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped herbs.
2. Fill a large pot with cold water, add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes, until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove pot from heat; drain. Set potatoes aside and let them cool just enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Slice the warm potatoes in half and place them in a serving bowl. Gently toss with the vinaigrette before serving.
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on March 25, 2021.