This week was one of the toughest I have ever experienced. What little time I wasn’t working I devoted to psyching myself up for the next day. With help from my truly amazing network of friends, I crawled across the finish line around 7:00pm on Friday–just in time to suck down a comically large flaming cocktail (with my buddy Justin, though I assure you I could have gone it alone) before catching the Loser’s Lounge tribute to Talking Heads.
I awoke Saturday with a determination to move forward with positivity. I brushed my teeth, threw on a pair of overalls and headed out to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. It seems that mother nature is also looking for a fresh start. Ramps, rhubarb and the last of the winter root vegetable stockpiles are finally giving way to all manners of green things. Despite the fact that CSA season starts back up this week and I am leaving the country next Sunday, I loaded my bag with cucumbers, garlic scapes, kale, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, parsley, scallions and a head of red leaf lettuce twice as large as my own uncommonly large head. Oona was just as titillated as I was by this bounty.
Given my commitment to renewal, it seemed fitting that Saturday would be the day I finally cleared out the dregs of my winter CSA share from the crisper bin. While good quality vegetables grown sustainably and distributed in a community-minded manner are always welcome, I will confess that this year’s crop was a bit overwhelming for me. I’ve learned that people welcome an offering of apples, but look askance when you show up at a dinner party with a bottle of wine and five pounds of dirt-coated potatoes.
As luck would have it, I’d been invited to a barbecue and assured that potato salad would be most welcome. Ken is a Louisiana boy with a couple of books under his belt and takes his food seriously. For three days, Ken had filled my Facebook feed with photos of giant slabs of meat in various stages of preparation. And so I set about concocting a classic American potato salad with just a bit of Cajun flair.
“I’m Horrified by How Much I Want More Potato Salad” Potato Salad
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Scrub a mess of potatoes, chop them into large pieces and drop into the boiling water. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (maybe 20 minutes), then pour into a colander. Return the potatoes to the hot pot, dump in some vinegar (white, apple cider, red wine, or whatever else you have on hand) and stir to cook off any excess water and allow the vinegar to soak into the hot potatoes.
- Prepare five hard-boiled eggs using your own preferred technique or my loose interpretation of Betty Crocker’s instructions.
- Chop half a jar of gherkins (yes, the sweet ones) into very small pieces. Do the same with the light green and white portions of a bunch of scallions and a pile of flat leaf parsley. Peel the eggs, thinly slice whichever one came out the prettiest and roughly chop the rest.
- When the potatoes are mostly cool, stir in a few very large dollops of mayonnaise, a large dollop of the prepared mustard(s) of your choice, a good dose of mustard powder, a quarter cup or so of the gherkin brine, some additional vinegar, plenty of salt and pepper, a little cayenne and paprika, and whatever else strikes your fancy. (Diced Vidalia onion, celery, and red bell pepper come to mind, but I did not have any of these on hand.) Gently fold in the scallions, parsley, chopped egg and gherkins. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional mustard, vinegar, brine, salt, pepper, etc. I like a potato salad with a sharp mustard bite and just a little sweetness from the gherkins.
- Spoon the mixture into a bowl, garnish with paprika and sliced egg, and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.
Somehow I had it in my head that the barbecue started at 2:00 rather than 3:00pm. Ken and his family were gracious enough to welcome me at 2:45 while the rest of the guests rolled in at more appropriate hours. There was much beer drinking and meat eating. Peter and I fell out a few hours later to meet friends in Prospect Park for some New Orleans music thanks to Celebrate Brooklyn. I strolled home around 10:00pm sated by beer, meat and dancing. Summer is (finally) upon us.