July 14, 2011

blue potatoes

The rest of the the summer promises to be full of flights that arc from the Eastern edge of North America, over Nova Scotia and the barren islands of Greenland and Iceland and down over Northern Europe and into the valley that waits at the foot of the Alps. And then back again. I think there will be at least six such flights between now and the middle of September. Perhaps my 29th (!!!) birthday will usher in a more peaceful existence, where I stay put, in Zürich, for more than a week, even a month, at a time. Until then I will be in limbo-land, neither here nor there.

Limbo-land stinks. It's easier when I'm in Zürich, where my days seem to fill up without even trying, but for some reason it's a bit harder when I'm in the states. I think it is in part because life is a bit more straight forward when I'm in Zürich - shop, cook, clean, catch up, read - and here I feel a bit aimless. I'm sure I'd find a routine if I was here long enough to try, but with only a little more than a week each visit it's tough to settle in. It's also hard to blog from the states. My parents kitchen is dark making it tough to take photos and we tend to eat out a lot, which makes cooking less of a priority.

In trying to conjure up the simple joy I feel in Zürich, here in the states, I realized that what keeps me happy and moving when I'm abroad has a lot to do with this blog and to all of you. So this morning I set out to find a little bit of routine with the help of a potato salad.
I bought a bundle of pre-mixed potatoes at Whole Foods - red, yellow and blue. I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting the flesh of the blue-skinned potato to be indigo. Of course it tastes the same as a normal potato, but there is just something special about it. It was one of those times when I realized just how beautiful food can be, pure and simple, a blue potato.

I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and really enjoying it. I've read a lot of the recent food-nation books, notably Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilema, which I devoured, stunned by the current agricultural standards in this country. What Kingsolver's book brings to the discussion is the application of organic, local eating. Her family vows for one year to live solely off of food produced in their immediate area. That means no strawberries in January, eggs from their own chickens and a Thanksgiving dinner where the star of the night is one of the Turkeys raised on their property, stuffed and dressed appropriately. It's an easy concept to consider in theory, but to actually go ahead and apply it would be difficult. Just yesterday I went to Whole Foods and eighty-five percent of the produce is from California. There wasn't a single item from Connecticut. Not one. Anyway Kingsolver frequently touches on the subject of rare-vegetables; vegetables that haven't made it through the streamlining processes of the markets and are on the verge of extinction. These heirloom varieties, such as blue potatoes, are slowly making a comeback among small family-run farms - thank goodness, because they are beautiful!
I'm not sure we've touched on the subject of what I don't like to eat. We've talked a lot about what I do like - pizza, peach cobbler, bratwurst!! My list of dislikes is very small and I'm sure all of my friends and family would be able to tell you off the top of their heads the three foods that make Talley go ICK! In no particular order those foods are mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs and tuna fish. Combine them into something like egg salad or tuna salad and oh my gosh I think I'd run from the room. Actually that's the thing that makes me hate tuna and eggs, the smell really does clear a room - pee-eww.

Anyway...your typical summer picnic potato salad is loaded with mayo, which was obviously a no-go for me. I much prefer the French style of potatoes with a little mustard oil and vinegar. This mustard - pickle potato salad was inspired by a recipe I spotted on Smitten Kitchen.

potato salad recipe:
- 2 pounds small new potatoes - any colors you can get your hands on, the more the merrier
- 5 radishes sliced as thin as possible
- 10-15 cornichons, or small dill pickles sliced into thin discs

for the pickled spring onions:
- 3 spring onions - I also threw in a few carrots, I mean why not.
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

mustard vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard - I, like Deb, use Maille brand
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste

Start by pickling the spring onions, and carrots if you threw them in. Cut them into very thin slices, all of the white and light green parts. Place them in a cup and cover with the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Cover the cup with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to use them, at least an hour for good pickle flavor

While the onions soaking in their vinegar bath boil the potatoes. Place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until you can easily stab with a fork. Drain the potatoes and leave them to cool. To speed up cooling you can also cover them with cold water or stick them in the fridge.

Add the sliced radishes and cornichons to the sliced potatoes. When the onions have pickled add those two. Make the vinaigrette by mixing the oil, mustards, vinegar and salt and pepper until well mixed. Poor over the potato salad and stir, coating all of the potatoes. You can eat it immediately or place it in the fridge. This is one of those dishes that gets better with age so be sure to save some for tomorrow.
Here's to planting some blue potatoes in your garden. And how about that blue rooster on the kitchen towel? I thought he was a good choice while reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'd like to think I could slaughter a chicken in the morning and eat it, roasted with herbs and potatoes, that same evening, but I'm sure it would be harder than I think. My friend Crem's parents have two pigs each summer and they name them Pork and Chop. Pork's Chops and Chop's pork are currently sitting in Crem's freezer waiting for their dinner debut. mmmm


  1. even though I love the three food items you hate, I love potato salads that are made without mayo and with mustard instead!
    sometimes though I miss that creamy feel and texture so I add a spoonful of yogurt to my potato salad seasoning and you get the same effect but tastier and healthier!

  2. I just finished A, V, M and LOVED IT - definitely hard at this stage in my life to consider doing something similar but yesterday I purchased "The Backyard Homesteader" and am getting together with a girlfriend in two weeks to can tomatoes...baby steps!!

  3. tala - you are a cooking GODDESS (but we both already knew that.) I love the idea of adding yogurt for a little extra creaminess. You and yogurt - a wonderful pair!

    amanda - isn't it so good! and you're right, baby steps. Your CSA is a great baby step until you can move to VT and plant an enormous, community feeding garden. Canning sounds like fun!

  4. When we settle on a place for the commune, we'll totally eat local all year long :)