I’ve done a lot of whining about the weather on here lately. I apologize. If you are a fellow Vancouverite, you will surely empathize: it’s been wet and grey with only occasional sunny or warm days for months. The grey used to really get to me. It would seep in and make my whole outlook damp and drab. Over time, I started to see the upside to our temperate weather: cherry blossoms in March, misty and bracingly cool mornings, greenery all year round, the wonderful wet earth smell of the surrounding rainforests, the exquisite and diminutive beauty of moss. All these lovely elements are now dear to my heart and make me grateful that we do not live in an area that is often ravaged with wildfire, or parched and bleached by the heat of long and merciless summers. However, when it is late June and the days remain cool, breezy and wet, one begins to long for sunshine.
Remember summers when you were a child? Through the spring the days would get long and hot, so much so that afternoons in school felt impossibly long. Finally, not a moment too soon, school would adjourn for the year and you could run full tilt into the summer, cartwheeling and cannon-balling into it, launching your whole sweet, happy child-self into months of sunshine and all the luxuries of summer: Summer camps, going to amusement parks and fairs, full days of swimming from mid morning when the fog burned off until nightfall. It always seemed like it would never, could never, end.
Summer memories, like so many of our memories are tied to people, places, smells and tastes. If you were so lucky, as I was, to have a family that gathered regularly when you were growing up, then you might have your own memory slideshow of summer picnics. Whether they were backyard, campsite, lakeside or city park picnics, they were no doubt special and likely drew the regular crowd and the same old (and old fashioned) foods. Growing up, my mother always made the potato salad for picnics and barbecues. It was a classic. Straightforward, dependable, unchanging, always the same minced dill pickle throughout and the same sunny yolked rounds of hard boiled egg on top. It may have been the only potato salad I had ever had until my sister in law joined our clan and introduced another very classic potato salad, but this time it included sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes! Who ever heard of such a thing? Needless to say, it’s delicious and has now been the go-to family picnic salad for many years.
Now that you’re anticipating a recipe for all my family’s epic potato salad recipes let me tell you why the recipe I will share with you here is not my mothers, nor my sister in law’s: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is to blame. Now, I don’t dislike this creamy condiment, but there is something about the rich, salty, egginess of mayonnaise that just doesn’t jive with hot weather, outdoor dining. Call me crazy. So with all due respect to the mothers, grandmothers, sisters in law, etc. who have a delicious “family secret” potato salad, I share with you here, a potato salad for a new generation, one that, given time, just might someday illicit the same summer picnic nostalgia that the old fashioned mayo, egg and pickle version does in me.
Balsamic Potato Salad
1 lb baby white potatoes (or 1 lb of large potatoes, cut into large bite-sized chunks)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 handful each: green onion tops, fresh mint, flat leaf parsley – chopped
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 small clove fresh garlic – minced
salt and fresh pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in a large pot. While they cook, chop the herbs and garlic.
When the potatoes are very tender (poke them with a knife to check) drain them into a colander and immediately put the pot back on the hot burner. Turn off the stove. Pour the now drained potatoes back into the hot pot. Add the butter, herbs and garlic. Stir and agitate the potatoes, this will rub their skins off partially and allow the butter to soak in. Continue to stir and gently crush the potatoes. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until it is fully absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve hot, room temperature or cold.