Potatoes are the most eaten vegetable in the U.S. I have nothing against potatoes – love ‘em! I rarely cook them in my own house. I might make an occasional pot of mashed potatoes, especially if I want to make shepherd’s pie. I will make my mom’s sausage-potato-corn casserole several times during fall and winter when the weather is colder. Periodically I’ll throw a couple into a soup recipe if it seems like it’ll be ok. Otherwise, I mostly eat them when I’m eating out (french fries, mashed, baked) or eating at the homes of others.
It’s ironic because as a kid, I would say most family meals included potatoes of some kind. We almost never had rice since my dad is not a fan. If we ate out and I had a choice of potato or rice, I often chose the rice pilaf as a kid just for something different, but it wasn’t for lack of loving potatoes. Living in Japan, to be sure, shifted my focus to rice over most any other starch except pasta. These days, if I’m eating out and have a choice, I’m likely to pick a baked potato since I make them so infrequently myself. Plus, the toppings – sour cream, butter, bacon, chives, cheese. Or garlic mashed potatoes. Or potato gratin. Who can resist all of these indulgent potato options?
We get potatoes from our farm CSA pretty frequently in the winter and periodically in the summer. They often collect in the bottom of my veggie drawer for weeks until I finally share them with someone else or find a use for them. I had a full share of the veggies last week since my share partner was out of town so I got a full bag of small, fresh potatoes. I decided that since I had them, I should make some potato salad, but instead of the regular salad of just potatoes and mayo I’d make what I think of as “Uncle Craig’s potato salad.”
Years and years and years ago – before I went to college? – my uncle made or brought a potato salad he made to my grandmother’s house. Unlike the usual mostly potato dressing, his also had crisp cucumber and tomato. At least I think it did. It has been so many years, I’m not sure what is true and what is the stuff of memory. The one thing I know it contained for sure was big chunks of dill pickle. I had never had a potato salad like it. The dill pickles and the pickle juice gives the salad a bit of bite and tang to balance out the creaminess of the mayonnaise.
I have a brand of pickles I really like. They seem more like the pickles one would make if they were making their own and they usually have carrots and peppers mixed in with the pickled cucumbers. My friends and I ate most of a jar recently. I’ve been adding chard stems and garlic scapes to the jar to pickle in the extra brine. I decided that I could use the results from this experiment in my version of Craig’s salad.
There aren’t any exact measurements since it’s about what you like and the amounts that would taste good to you.
- Cucumber (remove seeds if they’re especially large)
- Sliced (but similar size to potatoes and cucumber) dill pickles
- Chopped up fresh tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes sliced in half)
For the dressing (enough to make things moist):
- Mayonnaise (could use ½ mayo and ½ plain yogurt to cut the fat and calories)
- Pickle juice
- A squirt or spoon of mustard (Dijon or smooth mustard is best here, I think)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
This is a salad that is best eaten the day it’s made or the next day at most. The brine from the pickles breaks down the veggies faster so you don’t want to make more than you think you can consume pretty quickly. Also, refrigerating tomatoes makes their texture mealy and dulls the flavor so they won’t be as good after refrigerating the leftover salad. Sometimes, like today, if I’m going to take it for lunch, I’ll leave out the tomatoes and just take them in a separate container and add them in just before eating. It might take a little extra work, but it’s better for the flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
For me, it was extra delicious since I had the other dilled and pickled veggies I had put into my leftover dill pickle brine. Along with the carrots and dill pickles that were already in the jar (how the product is sold), it made my salad both colorful and extra veggie-full. My tomatoes from the Saturday farmer’s market were orange, red and green, so the whole salad screamed of summer.
I wonder if Craig is still making his salad this way? Hmmm…