Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beyond Potato Salad

It’s hard to resist good ole’ potato salad but there are some really tasty alternatives if you’ve had it at every summer cook out this year.  Just like potato salad, these salads taste great alongside sandwiches as well as all things grilled.  Try one out at your Labor Day get-together.

Wild Rice Salad
Serves 4-6
Nutty and citrus-infused, this salad is chock full of whole grains tossed with almonds, pumpkin seeds, orange sections, dried fruits and herbs.  Just the right amount of crunch and sweetness.  It goes with hearty sandwiches, grilled pork or burgers.  Add some sliced, grilled chicken to any leftovers for a complete bag lunch the following day.

2 cups cooked wild rice, cooled
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 oranges
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 ounces olive oil
1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
Salt and black pepper
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. In a medium-sized serving bowl, toss together rice, cherries, apricots, almonds, pumpkin seeds, parsley and cinnamon.  
  2. Zest one orange and add to rice salad.  Peel and cut second orange in sections and add to rice salad. 
  3. Make dressing by juicing zested orange. 
  4. Mix lemon juice, olive oil and soy sauce into orange juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If using red pepper, add at this stage. Pour over rice mixture and toss to coat.  
  5. Chill until ready to serve. 

Celeriac Salad
Serves 6
This is a luxurious side salad with a mild mustard flavored sauce.  A great choice alongside fish and seafood.  What is celeriac?  Celery root.  This tastes good with sliced celery too but if you can find celery root it’s a revelation.  The dressing is also nice over pasta salads.


1 celeriac
Juice of half lemon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel celeriac with a vegetable peeler.  Cut bulb in half and cut away any roots.  Turn each half onto its cut end and slice thinly.  Separate each half into quarters, turn onto the flat side again and cut slices to create matchsticks.  
  2. Place in a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice.  
  3. Combine mayonnaise, mustard and olive oil.  
  4. Mix dressing with celeriac, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.   
  5. Serve Celeriac Remoulade as a side or feature it on a bed of lettuce for a light lunch salad with a bit of bread and cheese.
Spain’s Russian Salad
Don’t even try to figure out the derivation of this salad, just enjoy it.  Theories are divided on why the Spanish named this salad after distant northern neighbors including one involving the use of winter vegetables—potatoes, carrots and peas—as a base.  The cooked vegetables are enrobed in a rich, flavored mayonnaise and sometimes shrimp or tuna, hard-boiled eggs, olives, celery and more are added.  Ample variations make this a good leftovers salad. 

Making your own mayonnaise is a culinary adventure every cook should try at least once but if you are serving this salad to guests who are very young, old or recently ill, stay away from raw eggs. I’ve created a variation that uses safer (and fast) store bought mayonnaise flavored with saffron and green-scented extra virgin olive oil.    Try a Spanish olive oil in this recipe for an authentic Iberian flavor.

Ensalada Rusa
Serves 4

1 pound thin-skinned potatoes
2 medium carrots
1/3 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 cup good quality real mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Large pinch saffron   (substitute 1/8 teaspoon each turmeric and Spanish paprika)
Salt and black pepper to taste

1 hard boiled egg
1-2 pimientos (or roasted red peppers) sliced in strips
5-6 green or black olives, sliced or left whole
1 can tuna packed in oil, drained
4-6 steamed shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup green beans, steamed and cooled
1 teaspoon capers

  1. Boil potatoes with skins on until tender.  When potatoes are almost ready, add peeled carrots (whole or cut in half).  
  2. If using fresh peas add them to the cooking water during last minutes or two.  When vegetables are tender, drain and cool. (Traditionalists peel the cooked potatoes when cooled; purists may want to leave the skins on.)  If using frozen peas, add them to the drained hot vegetables so that they defrost while the cooked vegetables cool.  
  3. Meanwhile make mayonnaise sauce by combining mayonnaise, olive oil, saffron and slat and pepper in a large bowl.  
  4. When vegetables are cool, cut them into a large dice.  
  5. Toss them plus any additional ingredients you are using with mayonnaise sauce.  
  6. Cover and chill at least 2 ours before serving.  You may also make the base salad and add your extra ingredients as garnishes placed on the potatoes to form geometric patterns.

Pesto Potato Salad
Pesto adds an end of summer glow to potato salad.  Homemade pesto is easy (see June 20, 2010 blog entry) but you can use a pure prepared pesto sauce for this too.  Boil a few extra potatoes for dinner and make this salad from the leftovers the next day.  Cut the cooled potatoes into bite-sized pieces and mix in 1-2 teaspoons of pesto per potato.  Add a little extra virgin olive oil or mayonnaise to thin out the pesto a bit.  This will work on leftover baked or roasted potatoes too.  And you don’t have to wait for this one to cool—it tastes great hot or cold. 

Grilling out should be as easy on the cook as the grill master.  If you divide the tasks, you may have noticed that the day’s sous chef spends too much time indoors.  Instead of spending time in the kitchen preparing the sides, step out and enjoy the fun with everyone else.  These sides can be prepped ahead and given a final toss outdoors, where everyone can lend a hand.