Mustard potato salad (a Southern-type recipe)

There are not so many variations in potato salad (that I’m aware of), but there are loyalist fanatics to the versions I’m aware of: the “classic” mayo base, the mustard base, the vinegar base, and of course, the German and Dutch variations. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, given the prevalence of potatoes in the world, but I’m not familiar with those versions. Then there are the nearly infinite variations on the old favorites: red potatoes, new potatoes, fresh dill, pickle relish, hard boiled eggs, homemade vs. store-bought… the list(s) go on and on.

I’m not too picky, but I have my preferences. I like my potato salad simple and colorful. If done “right,” I like a mayo base, but prefer mustard or vinegar, and I don’t want a lot of it covering up my potatoes. (If I wanted to eat condiments with potato in it, I’d glop some on some potato chips. And right now, people would expect it of me.) I like it good and cold, and I don’t really care for anything other than potato and seasoning in my salad – no pickle relish, egg, or other “texture,” please. I don’t mind a little paprika, and I love me some fresh dill, but don’t get crazy. I like colorful potatoes when I make my salad. Give me some skin-on red potatoes for best results, but I love the look of some Russian blues, purple Peruvians, or Yukon Golds for variety. What about a red, white, and blue potato salad with a vinegar or mayo base for the Fourth of July? Beats that Jello cake with blueberries and Cool Whip every time. In a pinch, I’ll buy a tub of it from Publix, but not often (I prefer their mayo base with dill and red potatoes).

After a request for potato salad and some debate over the best kind, I went on a search for a good basic mustard version. I couldn’t seem to find any that fit my needs or desires, and had started to get a little frustrated when I mentally thumped myself in the head. Why, if I know what I like and I know what the general outcome should be, am I searching for potato salad recipes? Internet dependency; I rue the day. I started mixing ingredients in a bowl and voila! A desirable potato salad is born. Keep in mind that most of this is to taste – I have yet to actually measure anything out, and am afraid that actually doing so would take all the taste out of the dish. So forgive my this and that, grab a bowl, and make you some of your own. Add relish if you want, or egg, or smoked paprika. Take some to that church potluck, or keep it all to yourself. I won’t tell.

Mustard Potato Salad
serves 4 generously

ingredients:
2 lbs. red potatoes, washed & quartered
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise (I use Duke’s, or homemade, if I have it)
2 heaping tablespoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons coarse-ground mustard
fresh dill, finely minced
salt & black pepper

directions:
Place potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with water; salt generously, and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until just tender. If serving immediately, prepare an ice bath and cool potatoes for 5-10 minutes, or until cool. Drain well.

In your serving bowl, combine potatoes, mayonnaise, mustards, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently but thoroughly, until potatoes are evenly coated. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. (If overnight, you may want to add the dill right before serving.)

Mm, rainy morn– er, day.

0831 est

It’s raining outside (thank you, Lord), and all I feel like doing is going back to bed for a little while only to get up later to drink some tea and bake cookies and make some fall-inspired food.

What a shame that I have to go to work instead.

– – – – –

1143 est

Now that it’s later in the day, and I’m sitting in the office during my lunch ‘break,’ I have time to marvel and wonder at my hastily-fixed lunch. I’m fully devoted at this point to fresh spinach; until I can grow it for myself, I’ll gladly pay for the fresh stuff in the store or on the stand. Same goes for avocados.

When I was fixing lunch, I had a strong feeling that today would be a soup kind of day, but I had no soup to bring! (I’ve got my eye on a corn chowder receipe, though, and I’m jonesing for a bowl of tom kha gai right about now), so I made salad instead. Doesn’t sound like a stellar replacement, does it? Cold salad for good, steamy, hot soup?

It was today. No photo, but here you go. Try this, I swear it’s good.

Wash and pat dry a generous handful of spinach leaves; set aside. Julienne about six baby carrots. Dice a whole, lovely, ripe avocado. Shave some relatively thick slices of Parmesan off the block, about an eighth of an inch or smaller, and cut them into tiny strips. Tear or chop a couple slices of deli turkey breast. Get a little bit of fresh parsley, roughly and briefly chop. Combine all ingredients. Dress with lemon juice, a good olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, cracked black pepper and herbs (dried or fresh) to taste. Toss and serve with some thick slices of toasted, multigrain bread. Enjoy at your leisure.

I believe in chunky salads – I want to be able to taste the individual ingredients in my rabbit food before I taste them all together – and the flavors here pop like you wouldn’t believe. Fresh spinach is a perfect, earthy base for crunchy, lovely little carrots; the mildly salty Parm; the creamy smoothness of avocado; the sweet and meaty taste of the turkey breast; and that sudden kick of fresh parsley. I like to use pepper and salt liberally, so there’s an added crunch and kick with those, too. I also added some dried oregano and some rosemary to my dressing, so it all had time to marinate in the fridge while I waited on lunch.

I think the best parts of this salad are that a) half the chunky stuff falls to the bottom and soaks up all the remaining dressing while it’s waiting for you dig through the spinach; and b) the bread tastes really good when you soak up the last little bits of balsamic with it. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

(It’s amazing really – as a kid, I’d never heard of an avocado or balsamic vinegar, and if I had, I wouldn’t have liked either of them. Now? Now I’ll eat an avocado out of the skin with a spoon, with just a dash of kosher salt on each bite. And truth be told, I didn’t believe in salads as a kid, either…)

It’s awesome that even in a university office, I can still amazed by the taste of my food.

No cooking lately?

If it was feasible, believe me, I would be. As it is, all I’m doing lately is thinking about cooking.That’s about all you can do when your new place is full of boxes, you have no real cooking utensils or apparati, you’re still organizing your kitchen (and reorganizing the pantry for the third time), and you happen to be leaving the state in T-3 days to go home for a week. What’s the point in cooking when it’ll just go bad in storage?

I have a tiny kitchen that, while it kind of scares me with how tiny it really is, I’m itching to test out. (I’ve only made tea and pain perdu, currently. Nothing w.r.t. real food.) Will I be able to cook anything effectively? How am I going to have to change my techniques, my movements, my thought process, to better use my space? I would really like to use my island as it was meant to be used – a cooking and utensil storage space, not a ‘stack-stuff-on-top-because-there’s-nowhere-else-to-put-it’ space. I need a butcher block or cutting board to put on it, first, because I don’t want to slice through the polyurethane. 354 has a slab of white granite on the back of his truck, but I really only want a piece of it for a cold board. A 2’x1′ piece of it would be perfect for making homemade pasta, or slab ice cream scoops, or kneading bread dough… and I like it better than marble. Maybe it’s the country girl in me, but why should I want to pay obscene amounts of money for a slab of rock? Granite and marble are still heavy when you drop them on your foot, and granite is sparkly.

My mother is giving me the old Cuisinart ice cream maker, which thrills me to no end even though I’ll have to store all my freezer goods either in a cooler or clean the freezer altogether before making ice cream so I can store the container. Or use one of the other freezers in the building (I could trade scoops of homemade for freezer space, right?). But I want to make homemade ice cream before the heat leaves (which I never thought I’d say, and in Georgia, I’ve got time). I love making homemade, especially the powerful gourmet vanilla that I’m so fond of.

The photos in this post almost made me tear up, they were so vivid. I wish that I could actually lick the screen and taste the vanilla, because that is what those photos say. ‘Eat me, I’m real!’ Sadly, no; at least, not in a tangible kind of way for me, just for Hannah. (And I’m supremely jealous of her because of that.) After I pushed away all my sadfacing over a lack of that gelato-looking beauty, I read the entry and it got me thinking: How would coconut cream do as an ice cream base? I have two cans sitting in my pantry, waiting patiently to be used in tom kha gai or a silky curry, but it’s too hot as far as I’m concerned. What would the effects of that coconut cream be in my gourmet vanilla? Or a Dutch-process cocoa? Or in a Vietnamese coffee-flavored frozen treat? Cookies and cream? The possibilities could be endless! And delicious!

But what would you have to change?

In the meantime, I bought bologna and cheese last night after karate, so I’d have something to eat for the next few meals of the week while I’m still in Georgia. (Don’t knock it. I’m well aware that bologna, like hot dogs, are made of chicken lips, phonebooks and pig knuckles, and I love it anyway.) I told myself that I wouldn’t buy anything that wouldn’t keep while I was gone – and then I bought a ready-mix bag of salad, and some limes, and two mangoes, and a red onion. I didn’t buy dressing, because I was convinced that I’d make my own damn dressing and it would be tasty. And then I realized that I have no dressing recipes, and my olive oil vinaigrettes never turn out tasting like anything but oil and vinegar. So I’ve been perusing the Internet for salad dressing, and come up with some pretty basic – and some not so basic – recipes that I like. They’re posted with credit under the cut. Tonight I’m going to go home, hard boil some eggs, open and drain a can of black beans and a can of beets, sliver up some sharp cheddar and grate some Parmesan and have a little salad party of my very own. That is, in between unpacking boxes and doing financial accounting spreadsheets and packing my bag(s) for next week.

Never heard of a salad party, have you?

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