25 May 2009

severe overexposure in early years

Slowly, spring is giving way to an early summer here, and I couldn't be happier with it. The last weeks have been unusually warm and moist, and everything outside is growing like crazy.

It looks as if we are going to have a historic harvest of all kinds of berries this year, and even the little peach tree next to my kitchen is carrying fruits.

Nicest of all is the herb garden right below the kitchen balcony, only a few steps away from my stove. I love cooking with herbs, and especially I relish in the fact that I can just step outside, gather some greens and can come up with something tasty.

Actually, I think, it was herbs that helped me overcome one of my (very few) childhood traumatas.

See, at my parents' home, we had a very international cuisine compared to everyone else around. But in many ways, it also was a very German household. I mean this in the best way possible, but in terms of cooking this meant that no 'proper' meal was complete without potatoes, preferrably peeled and boiled.
You might have some pasta every now and then again, or the odd dish with rice, but that wasn't 'proper' food. I still vividly remember my grandfather ordering potatoes as he wasn't going to eat rice.

And although there is nothing wrong with potatoes, the whole story filled me with that deep, heartfelt kind of loathing that only severe overexposure in early years can accomplish.

It took me years after moving out and having my own household to even consider cooking potatoes, and even several more years to accept them peeled and boiled on my plate.

And of all things, it was potato salad that lured me back to eating (and loving) spuds. Not that heavy, mayonnaise-laden version, nor the slicky, luke-warm lardy version of my grandmother, but a light, summery salad that owes a lot to my mother's 'potatoes vinaigrette'.

It is a perfect dish for a light summer meal, or as a slightly substantial side for a lemony grilled salmon, which incidentally we had on saturday. With the temperatures rising and herbs as abundant as they are now, this is the perfect time to try it yourself.

Too late...

summery potato salad
(serves four)

750g potatoes, approximately
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

roughly one cup or 250ml loosely packed fresh herbs, preferrably chives, origanum, rocket, a few leaves of sage and rosemary
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mild white vinegar (cider or balsamic)
1 tablespoon honey
salt & pepper

1 handfull cherry tomatoes

Clean the potatoes, but do not peel. Bring to boil in a pot, barely covered with water, the caraway seeds and some salt. Boil until almost done, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.

Once done, pour off the water and leave the potatoes to cool without a lid on the pot.
They will go wrinkly and maybe dusty gray from the salt, but that's okay here.

Once cooled, peel the potatoes and cut into slices not thicker than your pinkie.
The potatoes do not absolutely have to be cold, but shouldn't be hot either, as the herbs would wilt and turn unsightly gray then.

In a high measuring jar or your blender, combine the herbs, oil, vinegar and the honey and blend until the mix resembles a slightly runny pesto. Season with salt and pepper, and maybe a little more vinegar or honey, until the sauce is intense but well-balanced.
I prefer to take about half chives, half origanum. Sage and rosemary I usually employ only sparingly, as they can swiftly overpower the whole dish. But basically all soft, green herbs (as opposed to the rougher, dustier ones from mediterranean climates) will do nicely.

Pour the sauce over the potatoes and leave to marinade for a while.
Up to here, the salad can be prepared a day ahead, as it only gets better.

Right before serving, dice the tomatoes and toss with the rest of the salad.

Just ignore the salmon. We grilled it and had it with some fresh sauce hollandaise, nothing really worth mentioning, but it insisted being in the picture.

Serve cool but not right out of the fridge, either with crisp bread as simple meal or just as it is as a side. Goes well with fish (as seen above) or with any other light summer fare.
Diced onions can make a great addition, but then the salad would be much more assertive than the mild, breezy version I like so much.

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