For potatoes, with love
July 24, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’m in deep with potatoes right now. It’s not like me, really, to lose myself over potatoes, except for right now, this time of year. Summer potatoes, they really get you. It’s tricky to pass them up as it is, with their papery skins (oddly I can’t say what it is about those papery skins that’s compelling, but it’s something) and dusty, just-dug coats, but it’s when you taste them that you’re really finished. These potatoes are like velvet inside, creamy and dense and tasting like they’ve gorged themselves on butter, and the upshot is that as long as they’re in season, I’m eating as many of them as is reasonable. The trick is that I don’t have a ready potato mindset; as I said, aside from this sliver of potato eden, I can take them or leave them.
Three weeks in a row now, I’ve pursued potatoes with equal relentlessness, and despite a potato salad or two, a soup here or there, I have ended up with so many at the end of the week that I’ve resorted to sharing them with friends—each time a huge salad of potatoes, dressed in a celery leaf-parsley pesto, specked with bits of celery and garlic scapes, that everyone wanted the recipe for. You must already know I didn’t learn lessons from this.
Sunday I brought home two sorts from market—enough rose-colored French fingerlings, which I’ve been cooking for weeks now, to fill the good-sized scalloped bowl that sits in the center of my dining table, and another French fingerling called La Ratte, which I was so excited to see that I hung up moderation altogether and bought a 3-pound bag. This week is going to be different, I said. These potatoes are too brilliant to be fantasized about all week without actually making themselves on to my plate more than twice. I started with this:
Potato-lentil salad with celery, tomatoes, red onion and a light mayonnaise dressing:
1/2 pound potatoes, preferably a recently harvested fingerling variety
3 tablespoons black beluga lentils, simmered just until tender, and drained completely
1/2 small red spring onion, thinly sliced
1-2 stalks cutting celery, chopped
1 small-medium heirloom tomato, diced
1 tablespoon salt-cured capers, soaked in cold water for five minutes, then drained and roughly chopped
few sprigs parsley, finely minced
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably your own or one with an ingredient list no longer than six items long: egg yolks, oil, salt, lemon, vinegar, and maybe mustard, not necessarily in that order)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, something buttery and maybe a little spicy, but not so peppery it scratches your throat; it’ll overwhelm things
1 teaspoon or so lemon juice
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in a medium-sized pot-full of lightly salted water until easily pierced with the sharp tip of a knife, about 10-15 minutes. Keep testing them; if they’re underdone, they texture will be a bit chalky; if they’re overdone, they’ll start to fall apart, which is no good for potato salad. Drain them and rinse with cool water. When they’re cool enough to handle, slice them into halves (vertically is nice so more of the insides are coated with dressing) if they’re small enough, or quarters if they’re larger. Combine the cut potatoes in a bowl with the celery, onion, capers, lentils and most of the parsley. Leave the tomatoes aside for now.
In another smaller bowl (a ramekin is perfect), whisk the mayonnaise with the oil with a fork until blended completely. Add the lemon juice and whisk again. It shouldn’t be too thick; you’re looking for something with a consistency of heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. I’m thinking in hindsight that a little dijon mustard would have been marvelous here, but it was so good as it was that it definitely didn’t need it.
Toss the dressing with the potatoes et al. until well combined. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. Gently fold in the tomatoes and serve, garnished with the remaining parsley. This comes out looking like a tremendous amount of potato salad. If you make it right, this won’t be a problem.