Perfect Picnic Potatoes

In Chicago, we’re just now hitting what I call “Perfect Picnic” weather. If you live nearby, you know what I’m talking about. It’s becoming more moderate and sunny everyday, and nearly everyone wants an adventure.

The inspiration for this potato concoction was born out of two parents: the mother was the classic American potato salad (found at a picnic near you), and the father was the distant Lebanese variety (closer to the Mediterranean, and generally healthier all around).

American Potato Salad: Heavy. Tangy. Everywhere. Usually made with exorbitant amounts of mayonnaise, mustard and other unrecognizable creamy things.

Lebanese Potato Salad: A more naked potato blend. Involves garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and green peas.

Perfect Picnic Potatoes: Scalable (good for big groups)! Satisfying. Portable. Shake-your-neighbor good.

I prefer small potatoes for this dish because they cook much faster than their larger counterparts. Also, garlic, spring onions, olive oil, lemon and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley make the scene.

I started by washing the potatoes.

Next up: boil the potatoes. I set up a large pot of salted water and turned the heat to high. While I waited for the pot to boil, I arranged the other ingredients around the cutting board.

Peeling off the garlic skins…

Finely chopping (nearly mincing) the garlic… (I used four cloves… chop up an entire head if you like!) …Can you ever have too much garlic?!?

Next, transfer the garlic to the bowl (we’ll mix this with olive oil and lemon juice later).

Cut the spring onion into wheels… (Use as many or few spring onions as you like!)

Yay! The water is boiling!

I like to use a ladle to “lower” the potatoes into the boiling water. I used to throw them in from a distance, like each potato was a basketball. Boy, that was messy. And painful. Boiling water on my skin? No, thank you.

Now that the potatoes are in the hot tub, we can move onto equally important things, like the lemon juice. Squeeze the juice from one lemon into the bowl with the garlic (watch out for seeds!)

Enter olive oil. (1 tablespoon per serving seems like a good rule of thumb. You can also add more later on, if you’d like.)

Onto the parsley.

Once the parsley is clean, separate the leaves from the stalks. I like to pinch the leaves off the stalks. This is a great task for a school-age kiddo or a friend. It’s relaxing, meditative.

Just like with the spring onions, you really can’t have too much parsley. I’m doing a man-sized handful today, but if I had ten more minutes, I would pinch off four times this much parsley!

I like the leaves whole, but this would be a good time to give them a rough chop, if you like your herbs more fine.

20 minutes later…

Are they ready?

(Note: if you want a classic Lebanese potato salad, you would throw in a couple of cups of frozen peas (not canned) for the last five minutes of boiling. They add a violent pop of green to the overall dish!)

So far, so good…

Mmmm. Looking ready to me! I turned the heat off and discarded the boiling water. (Hello, facial!)

Next, I roughly mashed the potatoes with a fork (if you own a potato masher, this is the time to grab that tool!)

Still mashing…

Enter, garlic-lemon-juice-olive oil mixture…

A pinch or two of salt…

Looking a bit dry. I think I need a little more olive oil …

Some freshly ground pepper… oh, the smell.

The spring onions and the parsley…

I think we’re ready for a plate! I piled this potato salad on top of a bed of cucumber slices.

Clooose uuup…

Must. Eat. Picnic Potatoes. Now.

The best part? Besides being relatively fast to make, these potatoes are not moody when it comes to temperature! They are great hot, warm, or cold.

Perfect picnic potatoes take the spotlight on a buffet or at a potluck, and they hold up outside, too! Your vegetable laggard friends will partake of this with you!

Another thing I love about this salad is the ability it has to receive layers of complexity (it’s good to have variety if you make a bathtub’s worth of potatoes). You can stuff it in omelets the next morning, mash it into smashed skillet potatoes, serve it in combination with other salads or make it spicy with a pinch of red-pepper flakes.

Happy Picnicking!

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