Many years ago, I had a summer job in a grocery store deli in the rural Wisconsin. It wasn't a glamorous job. I rode my bike to the grocery store, pulled on my hair net (ugh), and disappeared into the kitchen. When I wasn't on frying chicken duty, I was on potato salad duty. On those days, I would spend the day making my actual body weight in potato salad. I washed and peeled buckets of potatoes, added in another bucket of preboiled eggs, glopped in giant vats of mayonnaise. Of course, I wasn't allowed to veer from the given recipe. I remember bending over the massive tub of potato salad, mixing and mixing the potato salad by hand, because there was just too much to mix with a spoon. I was literally up to my elbows in mayonnaise. At least it's moisturizing, I told myself.
Customers said that the potato salad was really good. Maybe it was. I, for one, could never bring myself to taste it.
But this potato salad is something else entirely. If you are used to the thick, creamy, heavy potato salad, this one is a revelation: this is bright, lemony, herbaceous, and instantly addictive. I have always known that potatoes need fat - think baked potatoes and sour cream, or mashed potatoes with butter - to balance the flavor and your blood sugar. My most recent revelation is that to make potatoes really sing, you need to add an acid - think of the British and their malt vinegar potato fries. In Middle Eastern cuisine, that acid is usually lemon. Here, in this classic Arabic dish, the lemons make the potatoes sing, and when you throw in the trifecta of fresh herbs - mint, parsley and scallions - oh, and a tiny hint of crushed garlic - the salad just about gets up and does the dabkeh!
The ingredients are short and sweet, and if you have an herb garden and a sack of potatoes, you won't even have to head out to the grocery store before whipping this up. I love how picnic-friendly this potato salad is - it shines next to any grilled meat - and it can sit out all day, and served at room temperature.
Lemon Herb Potato Salad
1 1/4 cups chopped parsley (1 large bunch)
3 tbsp scallions, minced
3 tbsp fresh mint leaves, minced (about 6 sprigs)
1 large clove garlic
3 lemons, juiced
1 cup olive oil
1. Peel potatoes, cut into a large uniform dice and place into a large pot. Cover with water, so that water just covers the potatoes, and salt the water generously. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to a medium simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until just fork-tender, taking care not to over-cook. Drain and let potatoes cool until just warm.
2. Mince parsley, scallions and mint, mix in the bottom of a large bowl.
3. Mince garlic finely, sprinkle with a little salt, and then, using the flat blade of a chef's knife, mash into a paste. Scoop this into a small bowl. Squeeze lemons over the garlic and whisk together. While still whisking, drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes a little flat, it needs more salt.
4. Dump potatoes into the large bowl with herbs. Drizzle half of the dressing over the warm potatoes; gently stir. Add more dressing, until potatoes are moistened. The warm potatoes will absorb the dressing over time, but you can always add more dressing at a later point. Taste and season with additional fresh salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, and serve warm or at room temperature.
* Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing
* Middle Eastern Cabbage Salad
* Rice Tabbouleh