My goodness, you guys, it’s September! When the heck did this happen? Where did the last 3 months go? Sheesh. I’m going to need a few days to wrap my head around this.
But, wait! Hold up! We still have one last summer holiday to celebrate, in typical summer fashion, with a typical summer BBQ and typical summer food. Labor Day is upon us next weekend, and we need to fit in all the summering we can handle.
Potato salad is without a doubt the most typical American summertime BBQ side. Have you ever been to a cook-out that didn’t have a bowl of this stuff set out on the table? We Americans love this carb-heavy, mayonnaisey, gut busting side dish that tries to pose as a “salad.” But we all know deep down that there’s really nothing salad-y about it, other than the fact that potatoes are technically a vegetable.
I grew up in a
mayonnaise-hating mayonnaise–fearing family, and while the classic mayo-based potato salad holds a special place in my heart, I generally prefer the ones made without. There are just so many neat things you can do to dress up potato salad sans mayo. Potatoes are master chameleons, after all! This one combines so many of my favorite flavors of summer: Tomatoes! Basil! Grilled! (Yes, grilled is a flavor) Jalapeños! And blue cheese! You can, of course, leave the chiles out or substitute them for a milder pepper if spicy isn’t your thing. We’re big fans of heat in this house: If eyes are watering and noses are running and sweat beads are starting to form on the brow, I know I did something right.
Here’s a little secret about grilling potatoes: they must be boiled first.! Throw a bunch of raw potatoes on the grill, and you’ll wind up with a dried out, over-charred, undercooked mess. Boiling the potatoes in well-salted water first, ensures they’ll be moist, well-seasoned, and cooked all the way through. Flashing them on the grill for a few minutes gives them that nice, charred flavor that adds the perfect summery accent.
I designate the little orange sun gold tomatoes as the tomato-of-choice for this salad. Well, as you already know, they’re just my tomato-of-choice in general. But any other sweet grape or cherry tomato will work just as well. The warm potatoes absorb some of the juice from the tomatoes, melt the blue cheese just a bit, and bring out the flavor of the basil, aka tomato’s best friend.
This potato salad must be served warm, right after grilling. It’s nice at room temperature, too, but don’t even think about serving it cold. It loses all of it’s moxie: the potatoes firm up, the basil wilts, the tomatoes become mealy and flavorless, and the blue cheese loses it’s luscious melty quality. This isn’t the best make-the-day-before dish, but you can boil the potatoes ahead of time and just grill and assemble it all at the last minute like it ain’t even a thang.
- 2 lbs waxy potatoes (fingerling, yukon gold, red bliss, etc. NOT russet)
- 1 pint sungold or other cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus plenty more for boiling potatoes
- 4 jalapeño peppers, optional
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 4 ounces tangy blue cheese (Maytag + Rogue Buttermilk Blue are my picks)
- 1 large bunch basil, stems removed and leaves roughly torn (about 1 heaping cup leaves)
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped chives OR scallions (green tops only)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- plenty of freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Scrub the potatoes to remove dirt, then cut them into large chunks (if big) and place in a large pot. Fill with water to cover, and add a generous amount of salt so that the water tastes salty. Bring the potatoes up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. While the potatoes cook, place the halved tomatoes in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix, and set aside.
- Preheat a grill to high heat. When the potatoes are easily penetrated with a knife, drain them and add to a bowl with the jalapeños. Toss the potatoes and jalapeños with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and then place on the hot grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until the jalapeños are nicely charred on all sides and the potatoes have developed some grill marks. Place the potatoes in a bowl and cover until ready to serve.
- Peel the jalapeños, remove the seeds if they're very hot, dice, and add to the bowl with the potatoes.
- Whisk together the honey and red wine vinegar along with the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, then taste, and adjust the flavors as necessary.
- Add the tomatoes and dressing to the warm potatoes and mix to combine. Crumble the blue cheese in large chunks over the top, add the basil and chives, and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if need be. Serve warm or at room temperature. Not recommended served cold.