Russ Parsons's Braised Romano Beans with Cherry Tomatoes
Ukrainian Honey Cake

Amanda Hesser's Potato Salad with Green Sauce


Enough of this huggy-bear, kissy-face, I-love-my-home-wah-wah business. Let's get down to brass tacks, to the whole point this blog was started in the first place, after all, to the very reason you probably show up here week after week, shall we?

Pure (sort of), unadulterated (um, mostly) criticism. Yes?

I dug up this recipe the other day, one by Amanda Hesser that she had accompanying some article on indispensable kitchen tools way back in 2003 (I think.) (If I remember correctly, they included the Microplane zester and a vegetable peeler. I can't, for the life of me, remember what the third one was. A mortar and pestle? A can opener? Who knows.) This recipe for boiled potatoes dressed with an herb oil was meant to showcase the cunning skills of that vegetable peeler, because you were supposed to shave ricotta salata over the whole thing using said peeler and then serve it up.

Well, in theory that sounded pretty good. Creamy little potatoes, an herbal sauce, some bits of cheese flung here and there, fine. Except, when you actually start to think about it, it's a little strange. That herb oil is pretty one-sided, to begin with. (There's a reason pesto includes garlic and pine nuts and Parmigiano.) You try whizzing together those herbs with the oil and salt, then stick your finger into the green abyss and taste it - tell me if it doesn't taste almost a little... metallic a-a-and flat and harsh, even. Can you imagine, second of all, then, adding ricotta salata, which is purposefully rather bland and a little flat (and goes so well with certain things, except not really this sort of thing)? I couldn't at all.

Since the green oil reminded me of that most glorious of sauces, the salsa verde, I plucked my jar of salted capers from the fridge, added a spoonful or two of them to the sauce (after a wee bit of soaking, natch) and continued with the whizzing. The briny capers mellowed everything out, paradoxically, but I couldn't help it, it needed something more. So I unscrewed the top to my bottle of champagne vinegar and added a splash or two of that as well.

Suddenly, things started looking up. The potatoes, boiled and cooling in their sink-nest, got sliced up into chunks and then dressed with their green, vibrant cloak: herbal and fragrant, with the barest hint of sharpness. I left the cheese out, as I think you should, too, and let the potatoes to soak in their sauce for a while longer before serving them.

This new salad? A fine little dish. A lightened version of potato salad, for those mayo-haters out there (hello! and welcome. you're in good company), a springy way to eat your spuds when boiling them in their jackets and serving them with a pat of butter and a shower of chopped parsley isn't enough. Which, actually, leads me to my next question. When is something that simple and sublime not enough?

So on second thought, even with my changes, this just isn't all that truly special. If you've got good potatoes around, don't drown them in something that will mask their true flavor. Just boil them up straight, and serve them plainly (butter and parsley aren't essential, but they certainly can't hurt). Eat your green sauce on other things, like fish and meat, and leave the potatoes naked and happy.

Potato Salad with Green Sauce

Serves 4

2 pounds fingerling potatoes, or Yukon Gold
Sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons sliced chives
(1-2 tablespoon salt-cured capers, rinsed)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
(1-2 tablespoons champagne vinegar, to taste)

1. Peel potatoes (or don't). Rinse and spread in base of a large pan. Cover with water, seasoned generously with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just cooked through, but not squishy, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Let cool.

2. Meanwhile, drop mint, basil, chives (and capers) into a food processor with a pinch of salt. With motor running, begin pouring olive oil through feed tube. Process about 1 minute, to a bright green puree.

3. Slice potatoes into chunks and pour over the green oil, seasoning with a few grinds of pepper. Add vinegar and fold together so potatoes are well-dressed. Serve warm or at room temperature.