Saturday, 21 May 2016

Potato Salad for Easing Summer Sorrows

“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between."
- Harper Lee

Preparing food to share with the grieving can be tricky in the summer months. Autumn and winter are ideal for hot, soothing soups, stews, and casseroles, but few feel like eating warm food when the weather is sweltering.

For my first offering here, I'm sharing my mother's potato salad recipe—the same one that nourished me after that first funeral I attended over 30 years ago. It's one of a few dishes that we've always been asked to make for family gatherings of all kinds, and so help me, as soon as we've heard bad news from anyone in our circle, someone gets the water boiling while another starts peeling potatoes.

It's a very simple dish, but one that's both comforting and nourishing on what seems to be a cellular level. You can double or even quadruple the recipe if you're preparing it for a memorial service buffet, or just make a single batch if you're delivering food to an individual or small family.

  • 2 lbs cooked Yukon Gold or white potatoes (6 medium), cooled, peeled, and cubed
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped coarsely
  • 1 green onion or 4-5 chives, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp shredded carrots
  • 1-3 dill pickles, minced (or as few/many as you like, depending on preferred pickle-y-ness)
  • 2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar, or brine from the pickle jar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise*
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika


Pour the cooled cubed potatoes into a large bowl and toss with vinegar. Allow to sit for a few minutes.

Add the chopped eggs, pickles, green onion, carrots, and mayonnaise, and toss to coat well.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, give it another good stir, and refrigerate until cool. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika before serving, if desired.

I don't have many true recipes per se, in that I don't have specific measurements for various ingredients and just sort of toss dishes together until they taste right. If you make this salad, please adjust it to your own tastes, as adding or changing ingredients can create some fabulous variations.

For example, if I'm just making this salad for my husband and I, I'll toss in a generous amount of chopped capers and minced fresh dill, whereas the version my in-laws make is packed with diced celery and white onion.

Adding some chopped fresh herbs like parsley, dill, chervil, or tarragon adds a bit more greenery and a higher nutritional content, and if someone is on a low-carb or paleo diet, you can also make this with a mixture of cubed cooked sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips in lieu of regular potatoes.

For a vegan version, you can use Vegenaise or even pureed avocado, and omit the hardboiled egg.
Skip the paprika if someone is on the AIP diet or is otherwise nightshade free.

*My mother makes her potato salad with a 50/50 mixture of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip dressing, but that gives it a sweetness that some may find strange when paired with pickles and onions.

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