Potato salads worth celebrating

Get creative with the summertime classic, and your dish will be the talk of the holiday potluck.

It's a familiar July 3 scenario: The hours are slipping away, and you still have to help decorate the historical society float, get streamers for your daughter's bike, wash your son's Cub Scout uniform, and make a dish to bring to the neighborhood potluck. Well, you're on your own with the float, the streamers, and the laundry, but perhaps you'd like a suggestion or two for your contribution to the cookout.

If you think potato salad is unimaginative, think again. This fixture at backyard barbecues has recently gotten a grand new makeover by Roy Finamore and Molly Stevens. These knowledgeable food editors, he of Clarkson Potter's cookbooks and she at Fine Cooking magazine, serve up a whopping 31 recipes for potato salad in their book "One Potato, Two Potato" (Houghton Mifflin, 590 pp., $35). Their pot boils over with such creative concoctions as a Roasted Sweet Potato Salad With Orange Marmalade Dressing, Potato and Chickpea Salad With Tamarind Dressing, and Lobster and Potato Salad With Tarragon.

Keep those in mind for another occasion. With your little patriots counting on you and a historical society that will relegate you to history if you don't show up, one of their less ambitious but still interesting potato salads would be a more practical option.

A few good choices would be Red Potato Salad With Mustardy Mayonnaise, Moldavian Potato Salad With Feta, or Red Potato Salad With Bacon and Chives. To add a bit of holiday color, leave the skins on.

Backyard revelers used to a dull rendition of this summertime classic, made only of mayo-saturated spuds tossed with a handful of chopped celery and a hard-boiled egg or two, will be delighted to discover any of these more innovative and inviting alternatives.

Moldavian Potato Salad With Feta

1-1/2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed

Salt

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed

1 small garlic clove, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

4 whole scallions, chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water by at least an inch, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partway, and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes on a rack set in the sink and let cool slightly in a single layer.

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Drop them into a mixing bowl and pour on the olive oil. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. Be careful not to break up the potatoes.

Once the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, add the scallions, feta, olives, dill, and vinegar. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. If the salad appears dry, add a bit more olive oil.

Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate overnight. Let the salad sit out for about 20 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Red Potato Salad With Mustardy Mayonnaise

1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed

Salt

2 celery stalks, peeled and finely diced

1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper

3 whole scallions, finely chopped

For the mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 heaping tablespoon grainy mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup corn oil

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by at least an inch, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Cover partway, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain on a rack set in the sink, and leave the potatoes there to cool completely.

Once the potatoes are cooled, cut them into 1/2-inch chunks and drop them into a mixing bowl. Add the celery, bell pepper, and scallions.

For the mayonnaise, crack the egg into a food processor and add the mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Hit the "on" button. Once the egg is frothy, start pouring in the oil in a slow, thin stream, adding it all, until you have a fairly thick mayonnaise.

Scrape the mayonnaise into the mixing bowl, and fold the salad together with a big rubber scraper. You can serve this right away or refrigerate it for up to 2 days.

Serves 4.

Red Potato Salad With Bacon and Chives

1-1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed

Salt

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

4 slices bacon, cooked till crisp and crumbled

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water by at least an inch, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partway, and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and leave them to cool in a single layer on a rack set in the sink.

Combine the shallot, mustard, honey, lemon zest, and vinegar in a salad bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are cool, cut them into fork-sized chunks. Drop them into the bowl with the dressing and toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Chill the salad for an hour or so.

Just before serving, sprinkle the salad with the chives and bacon. (The salad can be made a day in advance, but add the chives and bacon only at the last minute.) Serves 4.

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