Our vision of Summertime food seems to gravitate to cool, crisp, light and refreshing dishes. Although Potato Salad is not really a light dish, it is a favorite in the summer months. Potato Salads today come in every shape and size when it comes to texture and flavor. My recipe is certainly a far cry from the Potato Salad that my Mom bought when we were growing up.
Back in those days… and we are talking way back for me, the only Potato Salad I ever remember eating is the one bought from the grocery store deli. Growing up, Saturdays became our usual grocery shopping day followed by a hoagie and salad dinner. We always came home with fresh lunch meats and the infamous deli Potato Salad, Cole Slaw and Macaroni Salad. We couldn’t wait to make sandwiches and delve into these deli favorites. In fact, these same salads are still sold at delis and they still taste exactly the same, lol!
I remember when I was 12 being horrified when I saw the deli lady scooping the potato salad out of a waxed cardboard box. I swear from that point on, the potato salad tasted like cardboard to me, yikes! But the memory with my family was worth it! Since I was already becoming fascinated by the culinary world, this just made my determination to learn and create even stronger!
Potatoes are most commonly boiled for Potato Salad, but this recipe calls for roasting them, it changes the flavor and texture. I also just love to use the very small mini red potatoes. There are 2 reasons for this, first is they are so cute and have a great texture when cooked. The second is they do not need to be peeled… and I hate to peel potatoes. Actually, my Dad was always my potato and carrot peeler. He started out small for family parties, but then he made it to the big time when I started catering. I would put a 50-pound bag in front of him and God bless him, he peeled every single potato. He said it was like being back in the army and getting food ready for the mess hall. I miss him so much, love you Dad!
The next ingredient is Pesto which everyone knows as a thick sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. This is not the common mayonnaise based dressing for Potato Salad, but then again neither are the rest of the ingredients. I think you will love it with my Greek twist of mint and feta added to the salad. It certainly turns this classic into a lighter version of Potato Salad but it is packed with flavor.
Of course fresh basil and mint seem to grow like wildfire in the summertime. Mint I don’t have a problem with, but basil for some reason always dies under my not so green thumb! Maybe it has to do with Mother Nature being their sole supplier for a drink of water, lol!
Well, thank goodness for girlfriends, for my two Helen’s… Helen Karamalakos and Helen Skleres came to my rescue. Helen Karamalakos’ had basil that was growing in a planter becoming big and beautiful, she was kind enough to cut it down and give it to me for my pesto. Then when we were at Helen Skleres’s house for dinner, she not only gave me more beautiful basil but cut for me from her absolutely incredible garden fresh red leaf lettuce and parsley. Her gardens are full of beautiful fresh vegetables and herbs, Helen has always had a green thumb, it is amazing. I love those girls, their friendship and definitely their fresh greens… I am so lucky for my wonderful friends!
OK, so now I am equipped with the freshest ingredients for my pesto, let’s set started. Also if you cannot get the super small red potatoes no worries, the bigger ones are fine just cut them into small chunks. You still won’t have to peel them… yay!
Roasted Red Potato Salad with Pesto, Mint, and Feta
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 45-60 min
Yield: 4 servings
Pesto with Mint
- 5 cups fresh basil
- 2 tbsp. chopped garlic (6 cloves)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted)
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (chopped)
Place the garlic and pine nuts in food processor, pulse 10-15 seconds. Add the basil, salt, and pepper, turn on processor and slowly add one cup of the olive oil. Then add the parmesan and pulse another 15 seconds to incorporate. Scrape every bit out of your processor and place in an airtight container. Take 3/4 of a cup of the pesto out for potato salad add the chopped mint and mix well.
The remaining pesto can be saved for pasta or frozen. The trick to keeping that bright green color is to keep it protected from air. Air will turn it dark green or even brown, so with the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil on top to form a light seal.
The Potato Salad
- 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 3# bag of small red potatoes or larger ones cut in small pieces
- Sea salt and fresh pepper for sprinkling
- 1 small red onion ( peeled and sliced into 1/4 ” slices)
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 1 bunch red leaf lettuce or other mixed greens
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, place potatoes on a baking sheet and douse with the olive oil.
Toss the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and place the red onion slices on the pan with the potatoes. Push the potatoes to make room for the onion, sprinkle onion with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Continue to roast for an additional 20-30 minutes, make sure the potatoes are cooked through.
Remove from the oven and let cool for an about 10 minutes. Remove the onion from the pan and cut up into smaller pieces, cut the potatoes in half if you used the small ones. Place onion and potatoes in a bowl and scrape the remaining olive oil from roasting pan on top of the potatoes in the bowl. Now add the pesto and mix very well to coat potatoes and onions. Add the cherry tomatoes and the feta and mix gently. To serve immediately, place the potato salad on top of the lettuce on a plate and sprinkle with extra feta or tomatoes if you would like. This potato salad is great cold or warm.
Note: The best potato salads are those where the dressing is put on the potatoes when they are warm. Even if you use a mayonnaise dressing and even if you plan on only serving this potato salad cold. The reason is this, potatoes are like a sponge and when they are warm they absorb the dressing. If they are cold when you put the dressing on your potatoes it will just sit on top and not have the same flavor.
Again, thank you to my two Helens for contributing to this great recipe… I love you, girls!