A salad with a difference

The virtues of the potato were well established by the 16th century which is when the first potato salad is believed to have been made.

The first ever recipes of a potato salad goes like this – “They are sometimes boiled and sopped in wine, others boil them with prunes, and yet others who dress them (after roasting them in the ashes) in oil, vinegar and salt, every man according to his own taste. However they be dressed, they comfort, nourish and strengthen the body.”

The journey of the potato salad is interesting. It is believed that the Germans were among the first to use potatoes with hot oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar and bacon. This salad soon reached France, where the French dressed it in a light mustard vinaigrette with some fresh herbs. However, in the potato salad, as we enjoy it today, the potatoes were first boiled, then dressed with mayonnaise and seasoned with salt, pepper and mustard or other seasonings. This recipe became popular in the second half of the 19th century and has been going strong ever since.

Since this recipe has been done to death, a change is always welcome. One can roast the potatoes instead of boiling them. This gives them a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture that boiled potatoes can only dream of. One has the option of mixing them with any vegetable or meat desired and then dressing them in an olive-oil-based dressing. This dressing can be designed as you desire, choose your vegetables, meat, herbs and spices or just keep them plain.

What you need to do is to spread the potato chunks on a baking sheet, drizzle on some olive oil, season them well with salt and pepper, and mix them well so that they are evenly coated. Leave them in the oven till they are nicely golden and crisp on the outside. While the potatoes are roasting in the oven, prepare the other ingredients and the dressing. I like to toss the salad while the potatoes are still a bit warm, because they absorb the dressing better. The simpler the dressing, the better.

What can make these salads so different are the other ingredients you pair them with. They add colour, texture and lots of flavour. I avoid heavy dressings because I believe that the ingredients should shine through! Olive oil with just a squeeze of lemon or a dash of vinegar will do the trick most of the time. Salsa verde- style herb sauces are also a great way to dress roasted potato salads.

Roast Potato Salad
Ingredients : ½ lb. green beans, cut diagonally; 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint; 1 batch simple roast potatoes; 6 tblsps extra-virgin olive oil; 1-1/2 tblsps fresh lemon juice; Salt and pepper to taste; 1 cup crumbled feta; Mint sprigs and lemon wedges for garnish

Method : Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 7 minutes. Drain. Add the green beans and chopped mint to the potatoes and toss. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice. Add to the salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the feta on top and serve garnished with mint sprigs and lemon wedges, if using.

Simple Roasted Potatoes
Ingredients : 2 lbs potatoes, washed and cut into chunks; 4 tblsps extra-virgin olive oil; salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method : Heat the oven to 450ºF (232ºC). Spread the potatoes on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and mix them well. Spread the potatoes in a single layer, preferably with a cut side down. Roast them until they’re tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the potatoes. The potatoes should be browned on the sides touching the pan.

Loosen the potatoes from the pan with a thin spatula and transfer them to a large serving bowl to be tossed with the salad ingredients and dressing. They can be tossed while still warm or at room temperature.

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