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Published May 28, 2013, 11:35 PM

Home with the Lost Italian: Yukon spuds shine in summer side dish

All foods have a season, and all seasons have their foods. The tastes of summer include such favorites as corn on the cob, ice cream, strawberry shortcake, grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats, homegrown tomatoes, fresh fish, barbecue ribs, and watermelon. But, there are few dishes more quintessentially summer than potato salad.

By: Tony and Sarah Nasello, INFORUM

All foods have a season, and all seasons have their foods. The tastes of summer include such favorites as corn on the cob, ice cream, strawberry shortcake, grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats, homegrown tomatoes, fresh fish, barbecue ribs, and watermelon. But, there are few dishes more quintessentially summer than potato salad.

Most of us are familiar with some version of potato salad, whether it’s the traditional American style with mayonnaise dressing, the German variety made with a vinaigrette of oil and vinegar, or something in between. There are endless ways to prepare a potato salad, and each family seems to have their own special recipe.

Our favorite recipe happens to be my mother’s, and we make it several times each summer. My mother, Marilyn Anstett, is a terrific cook and was even awarded a Betty Crocker scholarship once upon a time. Tony enjoys cooking with her almost as much as he loves eating her food, and we’ve adopted several of her recipes into our own repertoire.

Her potato salad is such a winner that we’ve even featured it as a side dish at Sarello’s, where it earned rave reviews. My mom and Tony share a similar approach to cooking, which is probably why they get along so well: Use the best-quality ingredients, keep it simple and let the food speak for itself. This recipe is a great example of their shared philosophy.

With only four main ingredients, the simplicity of this recipe is what makes it so good. My mom’s innate understanding of food enables her to choose ingredients which balance one another, to find their harmony, if you will, and her creations often linger in our memories long after they’ve been devoured.

We love her use of Yukon Gold potatoes, with their buttery smooth skins (or jackets), creamy texture, and pretty, yellow flesh. There is a subtle sweetness to these potatoes, which is further enhanced by the brightness of the cider vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette (another plus, since I’m “allergic” to mayonnaise). And, with their bright green color and mild flavor, the scallions are the perfect ingredient to round out this dish.

Yukon Gold potatoes are mellow, and their medium starch content makes them incredibly versatile. Because they hold their shape well, they’re the perfect potato to use in salads, soups and baked dishes like scalloped or au gratin potatoes.

Yukon Gold potatoes were developed in the 1960s by G.R. Johnston and R.G. Rowberry, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, which is nowhere near the Yukon. They chose the name as they liked its marketability and reference to the gold color of the potato. Interestingly, one of the two potatoes used in their initial cross test was the Norgleam potato, which is native to North Dakota.

My mom has prepared this simple summer side dish with and without the skins, but Tony prefers them with skin on in this recipe. If you choose to remove the skins, wait until they’re just cool enough to touch as they will be easier to peel. She has also added capers and Dijon mustard at times, but this classic version is our favorite.

Marilyn’s Potato Salad is one of our summertime staples for several reasons. It’s easy to make, ideal for large groups, is best when served at room temperature, and can be made ahead of time. What’s more, its neutral flavor makes it the perfect complement for a host of different foods. And, of course, it’s also downright delicious.

Marilyn’s Potato Salad

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes

1 bunch of scallions (green onions), sliced into thin rounds (remove the roots & top inch of greens)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified (well combined). Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Boil the potatoes whole in salted water (1 tablespoon) for 15-20 minutes, until barely tender when pierced through with a fork. As soon as you can handle them, cut into one-inch chunks and place into a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes, then the scallions and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature (ideal).

Tips:

- If peeling the potatoes, do so as soon as you can handle them for easy removal.

- To save a step, add the green onions to the vinaigrette after whisking.

- Leftover potato salad makes excellent fried potatoes for breakfast.

- Use a sweet vinegar for this recipe. Apple cider vinegar is perfect, but rice wine vinegar will also work well.

- For extra flavor, add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the vinaigrette before whisking.


This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com

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