September 10, 2011

Two Potato Salads, Italian and Middle Eastern

I realize that it might be a little late in the season to be sharing potato salad recipes; after all, isn't it a perfect picnic or barbeque food? But warm weather isn't yet over, and potato salad is good for lunch any time of year. The Italian potato salad, pictured above, is from the brilliant Marcella Hazan, in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It is a very simple recipe: potatoes, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. Use a waxy boiling potato; I used Red Norlands. I took the photo above in late July, when the potatoes were "new", not yet having converted their sugars into starch. They are very delicious at that stage and I love them in this salad even though they don't make a perfect picture because the slices break apart.

Boil potatoes in their skins until tender. When cool enough to handle, but still warm to hot, remove the skins and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place in a bowl and sprinkle generously with red wine vinegar while still warm. Hazan's recipe calls for about 3 Tbs vinegar for 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes. When ready to serve, add salt to taste and dress fairly generously with good olive oil. Taste, and add more vinegar if needed.

This is a recipe I grew up with, that my mother made often. It is another simple recipe but has more ingredients than the Italian version above. Here there are potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and allspice. I like to add some thinly sliced onion, red or yellow, and chopped parsley as garnish. I remember that when I was a little girl, my grandmother used to make this salad by slicing the potatoes rather than cutting them in squares; she also used cumin instead of allspice. In my cousin Poopa Dweck's book Aromas of Aleppo, she uses both spices; I stick with my mother's recipe:

Boil waxy potatoes until tender. Peel them when they're easy to handle and cut into one inch chunks. When they are cool, dress with a liberal amount of olive oil, lemon juice and allspice. When I made the salad pictured above, I boiled one pound of potatoes, and for that amount I used 2 Tbs of olive oil, 1 1/2 Tbs lemon juice and 1/2 teas allspice and a sprinkling of salt. Of course you can vary these amounts to taste. Garnish with some onion slices and parsley if desired.


  1. The family recipe looks delicious. I make a version of the Italian one using tarragon vinegar and lots of fresh tarragon. Since these don't use mayo they are so much better for picnics and pot lucks. And the spices make yours perfect right through October.

  2. Vinegar on the potatoes while they are still warm seems to be key. Even when I'm using mayo in the salad I always dose the potatoes with generous amounts of apple cider vinegar and salt as the first step. It really adds zing. Your middle eastern spicing sounds great. I'll have to try it.

  3. Linda, I love tarragon; I should try that.
    Bettina, I think the vinegar really penetrates when the potatoes are warm. I hope you like the middle eastern salad if you give it a try.