There is no mayonnaise in this potato salad.
That needs to be said right away. Mayo haters, you're safe. Mayo lovers, don't stop reading yet.
While prepping for a picnic with friends this month, it took me until the day of to come up with a suitable side. We were having caprese sandwiches (thick slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese, basil leaves) as the main course, so I wanted something kind of light to accompany the sandwiches, but nothing too light. This was dinner after all.
It also had to be easily eaten on flat, flimsy plates, so traditional salad was out.
My mind eventually wandered to a classic picnic food: potato salad.
Plenty of fresh herbs and raw alliums (shallot and garlic) helped kick this potato salad into more flavorful territory. But my secret ingredient for turning a classic into something fresh was lemon juice.
The acid in the lemon juice helps to mellow out any harsh flavors from those alliums and cuts through the heaviness of a salad made of potatoes. I used lemon peel, too, to drive home that lemony flavor.
For the potatoes, try a mixture of red, gold and purple, which adds a fun visual element. These varieties also tend to be softer and more amenable to mashing ever so slightly in a potato salad.
Instead of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt helps make this version nice and creamy. It's just as flavorful, and lighter on the tongue.
This is the kind of improvisational recipe weekend afternoons are made of. With some potatoes parboiling in the microwave, I thought about what kind of acidic foods would help counteract the yogurt, which fresh herbs from the backyard I could add to balance the pungent shallots. And I tasted many times along the way to make sure it would hold up to hours in a cooler before our picnic.
That evening, it proved to be an impressive side for our al fresco dinner.
And when I remade the recipe for this column, and paired the leftovers with a grilled steak, it shone just as brightly.
LEMON BASIL POTATO SALAD
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 lemon
2 pounds red potatoes, or a mixture of red, gold and purple potatoes
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
¼ cup chopped fresh basil (you could also use mint)
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
¾ cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
In a large bowl, add shallots, garlic and lemon juice. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, stir, then let sit while you prepare potatoes.
Quarter potatoes, then place potatoes in a large bowl and fill with water until potatoes are mostly covered. Add a pinch of salt and microwave for 8 minutes. Check to see if potatoes are just fork tender. If not, microwave another 1 minute, then check again.
When potatoes can be pierced but are not too soft, drain water from the bowl and set bowl aside to cool. Place in the refrigerator uncovered to help cool quicker.
When potatoes are cool, add to bowl with shallots and garlic and stir. Add lemon peel, basil, green onions and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Then, prepare the yogurt mixture. Add Greek yogurt to a separate small bowl, followed by mustard, olive oil, vinegar and cayenne pepper. Stir, then season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir, taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Scoop yogurt mixture into bowl with potatoes and stir well to coat. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times