Columnists David Ramirez Gourmet on the Go

Gourmet on the Go

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Tick-tock, tick-tock, the clock is ticking down to summer’s end. No doubt many of us will be ending the summer season the same way we started it - with backyard barbecues.

It should come as no surprise that my friends know that I like to cook, so this time of year I often receive frantic phone calls from them asking what easily prepared but impressive dish they can bring to a barbecue or party. I am sharing with you two easy and very healthy potato salad recipes that are always a hit.

“American” and “German” styles probably first come to mind when we think potato salad. Today, we leave these popular variations on the sideline and instead select “Italian” and “French” versions. Neither includes mayonnaise which eliminates the health concern of spoiling in the sun.

Types of potatoes: Potatoes are categorized in three basic types. “Boilers” are described as “waxy” and contain relatively high moisture and low starch. These potatoes hold their shape as slices and cubes in potato salads, gratins, and stews. They are the smooth, round red and white potatoes you find at the market.

“Bakers” are described as “mealy” and are low in moisture and high in starch. When cooked, their flesh is dry and fluffy making them ideal for baking, frying, or mashing. These are the knobby, tuber-shaped russets or Idahos at the market.

The third category is called “all-purpose” or sometimes Eastern potatoes. The flesh of these potatoes is between waxy and mealy with moderate moisture and starch. The popular Yukon gold potato is considered an “all-purpose” and I have used them with success when making potato salad.

Always select potatoes that are firm and heavy for their size, with taut skin and no cuts, dark spots, cracks, mold, or other signs of spoilage. Avoid potatoes with a greenish cast as they tend to be bitter. Try to select potatoes uniform in size so they all cook evenly.  Store potatoes unwashed and unwrapped in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place.

Boiling the potatoes: Place washed potatoes, skins on, in a large pot, adding enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add salt to the water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or fork. When the skins begin to blister it is a good indication the potatoes are almost done. Cooking time for whole potatoes can vary from 10 to 40 minutes depending on the size. To save cooking time you can also slice the potatoes before you boil them (sliced potatoes cook in 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the slices), but I prefer to cook them whole so they don’t take on additional moisture. The skins are easily removed after cooking if desired.

Cut the potatoes into either thick slices or large dice, depending on your recipe, as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Potatoes absorb the maximum flavor from a dressing when still warm, so toss just-cooked potatoes with dressing that is at room temperature. Serve the salad either warm or at room temperature. For mayonnaise and cream-based dressings, allow the potatoes to cool slightly but do not refrigerate them before you put the dressing on or you will lose flavor.

Italian Potato Salad

6 to 8 servings

2 1⁄2 lbs red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, about 2 1⁄2” in length

6 tablespoons olive oil

1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 tablespoon (or more) chopped fresh rosemary

1 1⁄2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)

8 tablespoons finely sliced green onions

Cook potatoes in pot of salted boiling water until just tender, about 35 minutes depending on the size. Drain. Cool potatoes slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, lemon juice, capers, rosemary, and garlic in medium bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

When potatoes have cooled slightly and can be comfortably handled, slice them into 1/3-inch thick slices. Layer 1⁄4 of potatoes in bottom of large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle two tablespoons of green onions over, and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of dressing. Toss potatoes gently to keep them intact. Repeat three more times with remaining potatoes. (Can be made six hours ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

French Potato Salad

8 Servings

3 1⁄4 lbs of 2 1⁄2” red skinned potatoes

1⁄4 cup low-salt chicken broth

1⁄4 cup dry white wine

1⁄4 cup olive oil

6 tablespoons finely sliced green onions

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons drained capers

Cook potatoes in pot of salted boiling water until just tender, about 35 minutes depending on the size. Drain. Cool potatoes slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk next seven ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

When potatoes have cooled slightly and can be comfortably handled, slice them into 1/3-inch thick slices and place in large bowl. Add dressing and toss gently to coat. Let stand at least one hour at room temperature. Toss again and serve.

The Italian and French potato salad recipes are relatively similar in the way they are prepared. You can adjust the flavors in each recipe to your liking after they have cured and the flavors have blended.

You now have more options the next time you are asked to bring a contribution to the party. Or you can go the real easy route and just offer to bring the beer.

David Ramirez is Executive Director of Brand Development for Dangler Studios in Sarasota, FL. He has a BS degree in Communications from Boston University with a double minor in marketing and advertising. His twenty seven years of industry experience include seven years at J. Walter Thompson as a brand consultant to the Diamond Trading Company, and other notable industry leaders A. Jaffe, Frederick Goldman, and Spark Creations.

 

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