Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Middle Eastern Lemon Herb Potato Salad

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

(Serves 10)

5 lbs potatoes
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
Sea salt
Fresh pepper

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.


Related Posts:

Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

Middle Eastern Cabbage Salad

* Rice Tabbouleh


  1. This looks so fresh and yummy. I have always loved the way a good olive oil tastes on potatoes!

    1. Thanks! I think it is! I agree completely about potatoes and olive oil. And I use my best olive oil in these sorts of recipe, because the flavor really shines!

  2. This looks delicious. BTW, your blog is fascinating.

    1. Thank you! Are you an Israeli food blogger? I am tickled to have you as a reader! I only wish that I read Hebrew so that I could read your blog!

  3. I made this for a Memorial Day picnic and got a lot of compliments. I really liked it, too! I had something like it when I was living in Egypt, but your version is much better! I enjoy your blog :)

    1. Thanks for letting me know that you and your friends enjoyed it! Makes me so happy to hear reports like this!

  4. I made this for our picnic supper at the pool this evening. It was delicious! No need to worry about it sitting out since there's no mayo (ewww, up your elbows in mayo, yuck). Thank you for posting this!

    1. You are welcome! I am jealous of all of your pool parties! I am sure you are making wonderful memories with your children.

  5. Jessica, I will be making this again for an end-of-the-school-year teacher appreciation picnic. I know it's best served room temp or warm, but I need to make it the night before. Should I refrigerate it and then let it sit out for a couple hours before serving? or what do you recommend? Thanks, Jill

    1. Hi Jill! I would just just let it come to room temperature before serving. What a great idea to bring it to a teacher appreciation picnic!


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!