No matter how you slice it, potato salad is a staple at summer picnics. It's so common, in fact, that it's rarely the talk of the party.
That can change.
Potato salads can stray from the traditional, mayonnaise-based variety and venture into ethnic cuisine using spices, such as curry or cumin, or they can be upgraded from side dish to entree using hearty add-ins, such as bite-size pieces of salmon or chicken.
"If you have the potato as your focus, you can really build anything around that," said Lisa Tumminello of Cohn & Wolfe Public Relations, representing the Idaho Potato Commission. "Nowadays, with Americans increasingly understanding ethnic cuisine, it's not unusual for people to have curry powder, cumin, south-of-the-border seasonings next to traditional American, Italian and French."
Experiment with seasonings to create your own family recipe.
Maureen Logan-Raezer of Thyme & Seasons Cafe and Catering, 111 E. King St., does magic with her potato salad just by adding dill and it's called "Well, Almost Traditional Potato Salad" on the menu.
Straying from the mayonnaise- or yogurt-based potato salad reaps other rewards, too, like not having to worry as much about maintaining a safe temperature.
"You don't have to use mayonnaise. We do a garlic-roasted potato salad. It's made with virgin olive oil, cracked pepper and a garlic rub," said Logan-Raezer. "It's really quite yummy.
"You don't have the level of fat, you have a lot more shelf life, if you will, and durability at outdoor events. It's a little healthier and very flavorful," she added.
Chicken and pesto, raisins and almond, or tuna and tomatoes are just a few combinations that transform potato salad into the meal itself. Other possibilities include nuts, strong-flavored cheeses and tidbits of vegetables.
Vary your potatoes, too. Instead of russet, use red or bliss.
"We find that a bliss potato you can eat very easily with the skin on," said Logan-Raezer. "All you have to do is boil the potato and quarter it. It cuts down on the labor of a potato salad."
Jennifer Anderson, staff writer for Allrecipes.coman award- winning, user-based recipe Internet sitesuggests preparing the potato salad a day in advance so that flavors intensify.
Mostly, though, she suggests experimenting.
Bleu Cheese Potato Salad
Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and chop, leaving skins on.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, green onions, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, bacon and cheese and toss to coat. Serves 4 to 6.
Nutrition per serving, 5 servings: 362 calories, 5g protein, 37g fat, 522mg sodium, 21mg cholesterol, 4g carbohydrates, 1g fiber. From Allrecipes.com.
Potato Nicoise Salad
Over high heat, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add cubed potatoes; return to boiling and simmer 5 minutes or until tender, but firm. Drain potatoes and set aside or refrigerate.
In a large bowl, mix together ranch dressing and curry powder to taste. Stir in tuna, green onions and olives. Gently stir in potatoes.
To serve, arrange greens on a platter (or on individual dishes), top with potato mixture, then garnish with tomatoes and eggs.
Nutrition per serving: 223 calories, 7g fat, 97mg cholesterol, 399mg sodium, 15g protein, 25g carbohydrates. From the Idaho Potato Commission.
Potato and Pesto Chicken Salad
Over high heat, in a large, heavy pot with tight-fitting cover, bring a half a pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut them crosswise in 1/2-inch slices. Add potatoes to boiling water, cover and return to boiling; cook 3 minutes.
Add green beans to pot with potatoes and cook another 4 minutes; drain potatoes and beans and set aside. (Vegetables should be firm).
In the same pot, heat olive oil over high heat and cook the chicken, stirring for 6 to 8 minutes or until meat is completely cooked through. Remove from heat. Stir in pesto sauce; gently stir in potatoes and green beans, taking care not to break up the vegetables. Serve salad warm or at room temperature on a bed of salad greens, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 403 calories, 18g fat, 83mg cholesterol, 261mg sodium, 35g protein, 27g carbohydrates. From the Idaho Potato Commission.
Potato and Raspberry Grilled Chicken Salad
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (optional)
Over high heat, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add cubed potatoes to boiling water; return to boiling and simmer 6 minutes or until tender but firm. Drain potatoes and set aside or refrigerate.
Slice chicken into thin strips. Mix together washed greens (endive, romaine and watercress) and refrigerate.
In a large bowl, mix together vinaigrette, mustard and mint. Toss dressing mixture with grapes and chicken. Stir in potato cubes.
To serve, arrange greens on a platter (or on individual dishes), top with salad mixture and garnish with raspberries and almonds.
Makes 6-8 servings. Approximate nutrition per serving: 377 calories, 15g fat, 72mg cholesterol, 239mg sodium, 30g protein and 30g carbohdrates. From the Idaho Potato Commission.