The other day I got an email from a clothing store telling me about their “all new fall collection” and I suddenly became very agitated. Fall collection? But we’ve only just begun with summer. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out to me that we were nearing the end of July, that it donned on me – my goodness, August is right around the corner. And you know what comes after August.
Suffice to say I am not ready to admit that while we might be well on our way to an all new fall collection, I am feeling the pressure. More picnics, more parties, more cookouts! That’s what my heart is saying. And yet, as summers go, weekends fill up so quickly I don’t know when I’ll have a moment of just being still. I think I speak for many of you when I say that while summer seems a languid and leisurely season, sure gets over-scheduled and hectic. Weddings! Parties! Vacations! I mean, I am far from complaining, but you know, it’s good to just have a quiet moment now and again. Without plans. Or noise. Just as open as a blank page – full of possibilities and lacking pressure. These are the moments of summer I long for. These moments are worth their weight in gold. Or potatoes, for that matter.
Funny thing about me and potatoes – I can never have enough. I really can eat them every day with just about anything. Give me a heap of steaming potatoes, freshly boiled, sprinkle a little salt over it, add a drizzle of olive oil and I could sit there in the corner quietly having my potatoes and my little piece of heaven while I’m at it. You can take a girl out of Russia…
It’s also funny how I’ll crave potatoes pretty much all the time, like when about a week ago, I contracted a horrendous case of the stomach flu. To be clear, there is nothing funny about stomach flu, in fact, it was pretty dire and I do not, for a second, recommend anyone getting this “plague”. But what was funny was that I had to go on this so-called BRAT diet – BRAT standing as an acronym for: bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Though, I assure you that a few days of eating those four items, and you’re almost guaranteed to turn into a brat yourself, whining for various foods you’re craving and cannot have. In my case, whining rather loudly and with a slight nasal pitch – just enough to drive my mother crazy. The thing I was whining about – craving like nothing before – boiled potatoes with herring and onions. I was like a junkie looking for a fix, and were it not for my mother vigilantly looking over my shoulder at what I was eating, I would have gone out and scored some of that delicacy.
What I’m saying here is that potatoes and me – well, we go a long way back. It’s my starch of choice; it’s both my indulgence and comfort food. I could think of nothing better than a bowl of mashed potatoes to cheer up a crappy day. It’s like a security blanket. A warm, starchy, filling security blanket. I could write an ode to the humble potato, but looking at everything I just wrote, I suppose I kind of already did.
What I’m giving you here is a potato salad you could take to parties and picnics and cookouts and make good use of this summer. It’s easy, refreshing, got that obligatory crunch of the celery, and the surprising zing of the lemon. It makes potato salad “sunny” – it simply sings. And don’t you want food that sings to you from the plate? Horseradish, while sounding intense, actually livens the salad up. It sort of gives the solid, boring Joe-potato its edge, the equivalent of a biker jacket, which instantly makes a safe thing, a little dangerous and alluring. The James Dean of potato salads so to speak – it smolders.
Of course, you could always skip a party or two and kick back with this salad all on your own. I guarantee, you’ll find that moment of elusive, highly-desired summer bliss. That stillness and calm could be yours, all heaped atop a fork, garnished with dill and singing with lemon.
Lemony Potato Salad
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2009
3 pounds small boiling potatoes
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 ribs)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Cover potatoes with water in a large pot and season well with salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, 12 to 20 minutes.
While potatoes cook, stir together celery, mayonnaise, horseradish, chives, lemon zest and juice, dill, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Drain potatoes and cool completely, then halve or quarter. Add to dressing and toss to coat.