A Maximalist Potato Salad
If you're looking for a simple potato salad - this isn't it. But this maximalist take is worth making regardless. The details: tender potatoes are loaded with chiles, chopped herbs, garlic & whatever bright, fresh vegetables you have on hand.
If you're looking for a simple potato salad - this isn't it. But have a look at this more maximalist take regardless. You want this in your life, I promise. It's vibrating with flavor and color, and incredibly good. The details: tender potatoes are loaded with chiles, chopped herbs, garlic & whatever bright, fresh vegetables you have on hand. Right now, for me, that means asparagus from the market, fava beans from the garden, and peas from the freezer. I haven’t managed to get peas to flourish in our garden plot, but that’s a story for another day.
Let's talk about a few things before you jump into the recipe! First, it makes a substantial difference if you use spices that are on point and fresh. If your cumin has been collecting dust for years, this may be the opportunity to reboot. In an effort to avoid repeating the cycle, keep that new cumin (and another spice or two?) on your counter for the next couple of weeks. And use them. It’s an opportunity to make an effort to cook with what is in front of you, learn more about what techniques bring out the flavor of those spices (crushing, tempering, or roasting for example), and generally keep them top of mind. This is one way I end up discovering all sorts of ingredient combinations I love. A few go-to spice sources for me (off the top of my head) include Épices Rœllinger, Diaspora Co., Burlap and Barrel, and Épices de Cru. A favorite local Indian grocery also has a growing organic spice selection that I like to browse regularly as well.
I came home with a haul of fresh curry leaves from that same store the other day - and it’s a big part of what inspired this potato salad. I love the fragrance and texture of fried curry leaves whenever I encounter them - for ex: in Sri Lanka and Southern India they are used often - and buy them to cook with whenever I can. A side note, I’ve also had my eye on an eight-foot curry tree at a nearby nursery but it is too large to fit in the car, turning the purchase of the tree into a bigger project. I’m also worried it might not thrive in our yard, which I think is basically a bit of top soil, and then sand. :/
So, on the curry leaf front: I always buy extra, and freeze a bunch. As a rule of thumb, I generally freeze any that I don’t think I’ll use in the next 10 days. After freezing, they’re not as fragrant as fresh, the color shifts a bit and the texture changes, but they do the job and it’s nice to have them on hand. As I mention in the headnotes below, an alternative to curry leaves in this recipe is a big handful of chopped fresh basil. A different preparation altogether, but fragrant, summery, and wonderful. Other ideas? Add some citrus zest. Or, I could imagine a version with slivered, fresh makrut lime leaves in place of the curry leaves. Just a bit of encouragement to experiment and play around.
What you see is a very spring version of this potato salad, but maybe you're seeing this in August? A summer version would be A+ as well. Experiment with grilled corn, roasted tomatoes, and green beans in place of the asparagus, favas, and peas. Also! I’ll also take this opportunity to call out a detail here. Don’t serve this potato salad straight from the refrigerator or cold. It’s really much better just after tossing the hot potatoes with the garlicky curry-spice oil. Or, if you make it ahead of time, let it come up to room temperature before serving.
Enjoy! And if you’re on the hunt for more potato recipes, a few favorites include sea-salt baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, homemade gnocchi. And here's where you can find a roasted potato salad with a real wildcard ingredient. There's also a whole list of potato recipes here. Also, this is the time of year to have a couple go-to summery BBQ salad-type recipes on-hand like this Lime-blistered Coleslaw, Grilled Zucchini & Bread Salad, the Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad, this Coconut Corn Salad, and a more classic Macaroni Salad.
A Maximalist Potato Salad
I love the fragrance and texture of the fried curry leaves here, and you can find them at most Indian grocery stores. I always buy extra, and freeze a bunch. After freezing, they’re not quite as fragrant as fresh, but they do the job and it’s nice to have them on hand. An alternative to the curry leaves is a big handful of chopped fresh basil. A different preparation altogether, but fragrant, summery, and wonderful as well. This is a spring version, but a summer version would be grilled corn, roasted tomatoes, and green beans in place of the asparagus, favas, and peas.
- 5-6 medium new potatoes (the waxy kind) - 2 lbs.
- 5 cloves medium garlic, chopped
- 1- inch cube of ginger, peeled & chopped
- 3/4 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 25 fresh curry leaves
- 1 tablespoons black mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 medium serrano chile, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chile powder (cayenne, guitar sannam)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 2/3 cup chopped herbs (chives, cilantro, basil)
- 2-3 cups of blanched seasonal vegetables - for example: asparagus segments, fava beans, peas
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Cut the potatoes into 3/4-inch chunks. Boil in salted water until tender throughout, 7-10 minutes. Drain, toss a bit, and set aside.
Sprinkle the garlic and ginger with the salt, and chop and smash to a paste.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, toss to coat with oil, and fry until it is fragrant and just starting to crisp - 20 seconds or so. Add the mustard seeds and when the seeds begin to pop a bit, stir in the cumin seeds. It should start to toast pretty quickly, and at that point, stir in the garlic-ginger paste along with the serrano chiles. Sauté for another minute or so, remove from heat, and immediately stir in the chile powder and turmeric.
Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl, add the chickpeas and chopped herbs and toss gently. Pour the spiced oil over the potatoes along with half of the vegetables and toss well. Taste and add more salt, if needed, along with a couple big squeezes of lemon juice. Toss again, and top with the remaining vegetables and sesame seeds. Serve warm or at room temp (definitely not cold).
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Absolutely LOVE this approach. Will get curry leaves asap. Love the tip about freezing. Thank you!
Had this for lunch today and it was delicious! Loved the flavours, it's not your typical potato salad and it was a very good change ! Will try it again with corn, green beans and zucchini lated this summer.
Thanks Nina! Love your summer adaptation ideas.
Not sure what your climate is like, but I wouldn't worry about your soul - our curry tree is thriving in a pot! Given how many leaves you use at a time you don't need (/want) it growing too big.
Thanks Ella - that is great to know. Maybe I'll try a pot on the patio alongside my citrus, jamine, and rose geranium! :)
Regarding a curry tree. They are great container plants - which may be better anyway since you may have to bring it inside to overwinter. You can totally have one on a small plot. I got mine locally (SoCal) off of OfferUp for way cheaper than my local nurseries. I bet you can find one that way, too. Look around and check the usual spots periodically (Farmers Markets, ask a friendly employee or check the bulletin board at the Indian market, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc) and I’m sure you’ll find one.
Thanks Nicole! Great ideas - will keep my eyes peeled for sure.