It’s become a tradition at Food Safety News to take a break on major holidays by hosting a virtual potluck or picnic, held entirely online for our far-flung staff.
So we’re celebrating Independence Day 2011 by once again sharing our dishes – Mary’s farmers’ market veg dip, Cookson’s garden-fresh potato salad, Suzanne’s Aunt Sandy’s spinach and strawberry salad, Helena’s apricot-rosemary halibut, Andy’s Everyman’s Gumbo, Dan’s Fried Ice Cream Cake Sticks and Gretchen’s coconut berry lime cake.
We’re often asked if writing about foodborne illness makes us reluctant eaters. Far from it. We relish good food and all the healthy choices available. To us, food freedom means the right to spend our grocery dollars with growers and producers who see safe food-handling practices not as an inconvenience or cost, but as a responsibility to protect their customers and the public health, and therefore an essential part of doing business. Independence Day is a good day to think about freedom from fear.
Have a food-safe Fourth of July.
The Food Safety News team
GARDEN FRESH POTATO SALAD
When I saw an article on the RealAge website extolling the health benefits of potato salad made with potatoes that had been boiled and then stored in the refrigerator overnight and then splashed with an oil-and-vinegar dressing, I decided I wanted to try this way of making an ever-popular American holiday dish.
According to the article, which is based on a small research project done at Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, Lund University, in Sweden, this method of preparing potatoes helps neutralize starch’s effects on blood sugar — a definite benefit when it comes to helping prevent health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
On the flip side of the health coin, potatoes, which are the most widely eaten vegetable in the world, contain a lot of nutrients, among them more potassium than even bananas and substantial amounts of vitamins C and B6. Another plus is that they’re rich in complex carbohydrates and also contain fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive tract.
Putting this information together, I decided to strike out into new culinary territory. But I should warn you that I’m already a fan of oil-and-vinegar salads, thanks to my Italian friends in New York City, who many years ago “showed me the way.”
With that much said, let’s start making potato salad!!
Six to 8 medium-small red potatoes (Any potato will work; red just looks prettier in the salad.)
Celery stalk, washed and chopped
One-half of a green pepper, washed and cut into small pieces
One-half of a cucumber, washed and cut into small pieces
Six green onions, washed and chopped (no need to use all of the green tops)
Large tomato or 2 small tomatoes, washed and cut into small pieces (Don’t worry about the juice; it adds to the flavor)
About 5 tablespoons of olive oil
About 3 or 4 teaspoons of vinegar
Salt, pepper, herbs of your choice
Boil the unpeeled potatoes WHOLE for 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t cut out blemishes or cut the potatoes into pieces before boiling them. Most of the nutrients in a potato encircle the potato in a thin band just under the skin. If you puncture the potatoes or cut them into pieces, those important nutrients will leach out into the water.
You can pull out a test potato and slice it to see if it’s done enough. If not, put it into the microwave for a bit longer and keep boiling the potatoes for a few more minutes. You can add the test potato to the final batch when you make the salad.
Put the cooked potatoes in some cold water for about 10 minutes, drain, and place in refrigerator. Store overnight.
The next day, chop any vegetables you’d want to add to the salad. The sky’s the limit — whatever you’d like in a regular green salad. Zucchini and yellow crookneck summer squashes would look pretty. Radishes would add some color and crunch.
Chop the unpeeled potatoes into relatively small pieces, cutting out any imperfections that mar the beauty of the potatoes, and add the chopped veggies.
Pour about 5 tablespoons of olive oil over the mixture. Sprinkle on salt, pepper and whatever herbs you like.
Toss the salad about 30 times to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings.
Only when you’ve done that do you add 3 or 4 teaspoons of vinegar. Toss again 30 times.
Taste to see if it needs more vinegar or seasoning. If it tastes too vinegary, just add a small splash of water and toss again.
Let the salad set in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving it, and toss it once again just before serving it.
Before you test-taste this salad, please don’t compare it to potato salad made with mayonnaise, eggs and pickles. Yes, we all love that version, but this is an entirely different sort of dish. It has a fresh taste that will win you over — even if the typical potato salad remains your favorite.
Any comments or additional ideas on what else can go into this salad? Let’s have some fun with this!!