The start of spring is a good time to clean the kitchen and pantry. For me, that takes a full day, so I simplify dinner to get everything done.
I talk my husband into picking up smoked brisket and chicken on his way home. As I de facto bribe, I tell him I will make potato salad like his mother’s.
I can pull together the side dishes while spring cleaning.
Potato salad is perfect as I have some new potatoes that need to be used, and they are my favorite potato for salads. I can cook them while going through the cabinets and pantry. The refrigerator yields onions, pickles and sweet red pepper.
I put the potatoes on and check the canned goods for things that need to be used. I see I have several cans of water chestnuts. That’s good, because the celery on hand is more saute or soup stage than potato salad fresh. My mother-in-law insisted on using rinsed and drained water chestnuts in place of celery anyway.
Small new potatoes cook quickly. Leave the jackets on, give them a good rinse, then put them in a pan with about an inch of water. I start them over medium heat with the lid on. When the water starts to boil, the lid will make a little noise and get your attention (if you stay in the kitchen). It is a signal to turn the heat down just enough to maintain a good simmer for an additional 10 or 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Drain the water, then chill the potatoes. I like a quick chill method, transferring the potatoes to a bowl and covering them with ice. The ice melts over the potatoes, quickly chilling them. This is great if you plan to peel the potatoes, as the peeling practically pops off as the potatoes cool.
If you plan to leave the peeling in place, put the ice in a plastic bag and situate it over the bowl of potatoes. I use a wide, shallow plastic bowl for this quick-cool method. I like this one if I’m making more of a French-style potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
Here’s another suggestion to make winter disappear at your dinner table: Get some of David Yates’ Whispering Springs Tomatoes and slice them up. He grows heirlooms, slicers and cherry tomatoes in his Mustang greenhouse. You can find them at Urban Agrarian Market, 1235 SW 2 St., near the old Farmers Public Market building.
Busy Day Potato Salad
This is a lower-fat version of my mother-in-law’s potato salad. Vary the amounts according to what you have on hand or what you like. The water chestnuts add great crunch. Makes 4 servings.
1 pound small new potatoes,
1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sweet bread-and-butter pickles
1/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper or chopped pimentos
1 (5-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
•Place whole potatoes with peeling intact in small saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover to finish cooking until potatoes are fork tender (about 10 minutes depending on size of potatoes). While potatoes cook, prepare onions, pickles, sweet pepper or pimentos and water chestnuts.
•Remove potatoes from heat when fork tender and drain. To quickly chill potatoes, place them in bowl under ice cubes placed in a plastic bag. Alternatively, potatoes can cool to room temperature, then be thoroughly chilled in refrigerator. Peel if desired, then trim and cut into chunks.
•Incorporate chopped vegetables with potatoes.
•To make the dressing, stir together oil, mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and garlic salt until well blended. Combine with potato and vegetable mixture. Taste and add salt and pepper or additional mustard if desired, stirring well to incorporate into the salad. Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve.