It's official, at least at my house, summer is here. The crockpot is put away. The barbecue has been cleaned up and the farmer's market has begun.
There's a new stack of summer reading materials next to the lawn chairs. Sun tea is basking in the sunniest spot on the patio and there's a big, yellow swallowtail butterfly on my magenta joe pye flowers. The only thing missing right now is a juicy hamburger just off the grill and my mother's potato or macaroni salad.
My recipes for both have not changed and neither has the taste. I don't know if it's the memories of summers at the beach or camping in the pines that makes the tastes of mom's cooking so good or if it's those old recipes that really are worth repeating over and over.
Jello salads, celery stuffed with pimento cheese spread, egg salad sandwiches, the list goes on and on. I don't have written recipes for potato or macaroni salad, just ingredient lists stored carefully in the cobwebs of my brain and the knowledge of how everything should taste as I add unmeasured quantities of each ingredient. This is my preferred way of concocting and cooking.
And speaking of old recipes... I have a reading suggestion for anyone who enjoys food writing in general. Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher (MFK Fisher for short), wrote about everything from the food scene in early 20th century New York and Los Angeles, to her own experiences with food travel in Europe, to the characters she had the pleasure of crossing paths with and dined with frequently.
She wrote a series of books, her first being published in 1928 up until her death in 1992. They are all gems of the culinary arts, as well as a history of the joys of eating good food. It is also a window into how food preparation has changed over the last 100 years and a reminder of some of the food I grew up with.
With Bold Knife and Fork and An Alphabet for Gourmets are only a couple of the 27 or so books she wrote and a good introduction to this fabulous author and gourmand. Her prose is delightful, her intellect obvious, and the stories are fascinating.
I've learned a lot in between her sarcasm, humor and passion for food. I think what really surprised me though, was just how much cocktails and champagne were a part of everyday, pre-dinner life! It is summer food reading at it's best.
My recipe this week is for potato salad and I know there are many schools of thought when it comes to the best. From the choice of potatoes, sweet or sour, mustard yes or no, mayo or oil, choice of herbs and the all important ingredient that does it for me... hard boiled eggs.
I'm sure there are more additions that I have not even thought about. Plus, there are other preferences. For instance, chunky versus smooth or wet versus dry, warm or cold. But we can all agree the most important ingredient to make it the best was, of course, our moms. So mom, here's to you and the joyous seasonal meals that were the taste of summer.
3 pounds russet potatoes
1 c mayonnaise
4 T sharp mustard
5-6 whole sweet pickles chopped
2 T sweet pickle juice
4-5 green onions
4-5 hard boiled eggs
1 t paprika (smoked or Hungarian hot) salt and pepper
Peel potatoes and cut into quarters if large or half if small. Boil until they break apart when stuck with a fork. Put into a large bowl and break apart a bit but make sure to leave some chunks that are identifiable as potatoes. Let cool for about 20 minutes while you hard boil your eggs. It's best for the potatoes to be warm when you add the mayo, mustard and sweet pickles as the potatoes will be able to
better absorb the flavors. Add the first four ingredients and mix well. Add the chopped pickles, juice, chopped green onions and mix. Slice the eggs into discs and fold in so that the eggs don't disintegrate. Add the paprika. Salt and pepper to taste. Let cool in the fridge before serving.
The measurements for all of these ingredients are open for adjustment. If you need more mayo for a wet texture, add it. If you love mustard, or not, adjust to your taste, etc., etc. It's the magic of potato salad! Have a wonderful, safe summer everyone.