July 3, 2013

Brooke Dojny: Invite a couple of old reliables along for the ride in the picnic basket

Happy Fourth! If you've been invited to a picnic -- or are throwing one in your backyard -- here are a couple of easy, portable, reliable, kid-friendly (for some) classic American salads to contribute to the table.

RED POTATO SALAD

Everyone needs a tried-and-true potato salad recipe and this is mine. It has nice celery crunch, just enough onion, and a pleasing hint of sweetness from the pickle juice. I love the flavor and color provided by chopped hard-boiled eggs but omit them if you want. To dress up the salad, present it on a bed of lettuce and garnish with tomato wedges and/or sliced radishes.

Servings: Six to eight

2 eggs

2 pounds red-skinned potatoes or other waxy potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks

3 tablespoons sweet pickle juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup mayonnaise, plus additional if necessary

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons milk or cream

¾ cup thinly sliced celery

½ cup finely chopped red or sweet white onion

2 tablespoons chopped gherkins or sweet pickles

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or dill or a combination

Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, remove from the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Peel eggs and coarsely chop.

Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until just fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, cut into ½-inch cubes. Some of the peel will fall off but try to leave some of it on. Toss in a large bowl with the pickle juice and about ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.

Whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard and milk in a medium bowl. Stir in celery, onion, chopped pickles, and chopped hard-cooked eggs. Pour dressing over the potatoes, stir gently to combine, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

Before serving, stir again to redistribute the dressing, adding more mayonnaise if it seems dry, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.

MANY-BEAN AND CORN SALAD

This American classic endures decade after decade for very good reasons. It's attractive, easy to prepare, can be made well ahead, and is easily transported to a picnic. And it tastes great! Here is a slightly updated version of my mother's tried-and-true recipe.

Servings: Six to eight

SWEET CIDER VINAIGRETTE:

¼ cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon liquid hot pepper sauce

½ cup vegetable oil or light olive oil

BEAN AND CORN SALAD:

3 ears of corn, husked

8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch lengths

8 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut in 1½-inch lengths

1½ cups drained and rinsed cooked kidney beans

1½ cups drained and rinsed cooked garabanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Whisk in the oil.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook corn for 1 minute. Remove, cool, and cut kernels from the ears. In the same pot of water, cook the green and wax beans until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain into a colander.

In a large bowl, combine corn and cooked beans with kidney beans and garbanzos. Pour dressing over and set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Stir in bell pepper and onion; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 12 hours.

When ready to serve, stir to redistribute the dressing, and taste to correct the seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Lobster!" (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny

 

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