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Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Lively Potato Salad

Last year I spent my birthday in the one place I most wanted to be, where I usually am on my birthday: celebrating our friend Carolyn’s birthday at her birthday party. Carolyn is about five days older than I am, though light years ahead of me in soul and spirit. 

Every year when Tim, Carolyn’s husband, invites us to Carolyn’s birthday barbeque, he asks me to bring my “famous” potato salad, which I am happy to do, because I am terrible at making the small decisions in life, such as deciding what to bring to a potluck. Put a Baskin Robbins’ 32 flavors of ice cream menu in front of me, and I become a quivering mass of indecision, yet I seem to have very little trouble making the really big life decisions: “Let’s get married!” “Yes!”  “Let’s have a baby!” Yes!” And I routinely volunteer to do very large jobs that I have never done before in my life, at the drop of a hat, all the while thinking: “I can do that! I already know how to do part of it. I’ll figure it out as I go.” I call this my “Sewing the parachute on the way out of the airplane” philosophy. Astonishingly, this usually works just fine, because I never volunteer to do anything that I am not convinced that I can figure out. But the small decisions in life stymie me: “Which ancient outfit from my woefully inadequate wardrobe should I wear to a reception?” I have no idea. “Which entrée should I order?” Maybe the waiter could come back in a year or two when I’ve had time to figure it out. Actually my restaurant indecisiveness has gotten a lot better in the past few years, because I’ve finally figured out that it doesn’t matter whether or not I order exactly the most delicious item on the menu. It’s just one meal; there will be others. 

Back to the potato salad: When I pulled the bag of potatoes up off the floor of the spice cabinet, I discovered that there had been a magical transformation. The potatoes had started to sprout and now Sprouting Pottoesresembled a very homely flock of sea anemones. (Which made me sadly ponder the fate of sea life in the Gulf of Mexico: surely sea anemones cannot survive the toxic tentacles of spewed oil.) It was that potatoey time of year when even incarcerated potatoes are trying to reach the light, and the ones bedded down in my garden were shooting up so fast that I could barely keep them adequately covered. 

Luckily for me, most sprouted potatoes are still perfectly edible, as long as one removes the sprouts. (Green potatoes are the dangerous ones — potatoes, like tomatoes, eggplant, tobacco, and petunias, are in the deadly nightshade family — the green pigment in this plant family is toxic.) So I scrubbed and rinsed, removed the eyes, and then started peeling, and all the potatoes but one were perfectly fine. 

Ellen’s “Famous” Potato Salad Recipe  

(feeds a bunch of people)  

A colander of potatoes (no green ones). Peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces, and then  boiled until just barely cooked through. 

Half a dozen eggs that were not born yesterday, hardboiled. (Eggs that are still wet behind the ears, as it were, make terrible hard boiled eggs. No matter how long you boil them, really fresh eggs never achieve the lovely, rubbery consistency that is requisite of a hard boiled egg. We learned this the hard way: our lovely fresh eggs are so fresh that we have to set them aside for at least a week in order to make decent hard boiled eggs.) 

One medium onion, coarsely diced and then soaked in extremely salty water for several hours. (Peel the onion. Cut off and discard both ends. Dice coarsely. Put in a bowl just big enough to hold the pieces, pour a tablespoon of salt over the onion, cover with cold water, then put a lid on the bowl and refrigerate for several hours.) The salt soak removes the sting from the onions, so that once they are rinsed, they are sweet and lie easy on the stomach. 

A couple of dill pickles or a couple dozen pickled dilly beans

Fresh dill and/or cilantro, chopped (if this is a winter potato salad, use dried dill) 

A cup of mayonnaise 

Curry powder 



Garlic powder, or fresh garlic cloves, squeezed 

Freshly ground black pepper 

Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) or seasoned salt 


Mix the mayonnaise with curry powder, cumin, paprika, garlic, freshly ground black pepper and soy sauce or seasoned salt, to taste. 

Coarsely chop the hard boiled eggs and the pickles. 

Use a strainer to drain the water out of the soaked, chopped onion, and rinse very thoroughly, to remove the excess salt. 

Chop the dill and cilantro. 

Stir the chopped eggs, pickles, dill, cilantro, and rinsed chopped onion into the cooked potatoes. Add the mayonnaise and stir in gently. Serve. 

Photo by Ellen Sandbeck

ellen sandbeck
10/25/2012 7:26:01 PM

Potato plant poisoning-green tubers and sprouts:

glee bohanon
5/5/2012 12:42:23 PM

To use fresh eggs, you need to steam them. Put them in your steamer basket in a pot over (not in) about an inch of water. Put on a tight lid,bring the water to a rapid boil, and steam for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat and let the eggs cool down until you can handle them. Run cold water over them and peel away! It works because the steam can penetrate the egg where the larger molecules of water can't and creates an air pocket inside the egg. Works for me every time.

tyler voss
5/4/2012 5:33:33 PM

I get sick by just eating one potato that has had the green peeled off. Take a bite of a green potato or a sprout it is very bitter to me. potato chip with green edges also cause a sharp headache.

l. crandall
5/4/2012 4:44:46 PM

Fresh eggs don't make good hard boiled eggs! I am so thrilled to see someone else say it/print it. We sell a few eggs at the door and I always caution new customers not to hard boil them. They always look at me like I'm crazy. And since our household eggs are always so fresh - when I'm craving potato salad or egg salad - I have to plan ahead and stash some in the back of the fridge for a couple weeks before hand.

marie adams
5/4/2012 3:01:34 PM

sorry, you're wrong about the green potato. The green is actually sunburn. It happens when the potato is exposed to sunlight for too long. You'd have to eat a bushel of the green ones to get sick. An old wives tale I suspect. Marie, ex- USDA potato inspector, from Idaho.