Rather than make heavy potato salads laden with mayo, Mediterranean cooks like their potato salads to be refreshing. A friend introduced me to an Italian rendition of fingerling potatoes flavored only with extra-virgin olive oil, Italian parsley, salt and pepper.
Many cooks will add lemon juice, garlic and onions--red, white or green--and throw in herbs by the handful. Greeks find oregano a good potato partner, while Lebanese and Egyptian cooks like mint.
When making potato salad, remember three potato precepts: Cook potatoes carefully, season while warm (so they absorb flavors most readily), and handle gently once cooked. Simmer or steam the spuds in their skins to keep in more flavor.
Besides baby potatoes, you can also get good results with larger white- or red-skinned boiling potatoes or the yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold variety. Avoid russets or baking potatoes, as they tend to fall apart.
If you peel the potatoes, do it quickly so they won’t get cold. Then moisten them with a portion of the dressing. If you want to embellish them, add pungent olives, capers, chopped anchovies or dill pickles to give the potatoes punch. Lightly cooked green beans, grilled red peppers or diced tomatoes impart a colorful, summery accent. Fold in the remaining dressing and any extra ingredients gently; don’t mash the potatoes.
Potato salad does not benefit from prolonged chilling because cold dressing can congeal and make the potatoes seem dry. A mayonnaise-free Mediterranean dressing allows you to serve the salad at room temperature.
Faye Levy is the author of “1,000 Jewish Recipes” (Wiley, 2000)