Potatoes. America’s #1 vegetable crop according to the USDA, with over 90% of the potatoes we eat being planted in the spring for fall harvest. How, then, did potato salad become the appointed side dish of summer?
Maybe it has something to do with the long shelf life of many potato varieties, or the economics of feeding large crowds with relatively inexpensive ingredients. However it happened, I’m glad that it did.
Early-season new potatoes are the sweetest of all, perfect, in my opinion, for potato salads. These little guys are simply young potatoes that haven’t matured into larger, starchier spuds. With thin, papery skins and ultra-creamy, moist interiors, new potatoes cook up quickly and make for great bite-sized noshing.
A great side dish for summer entertaining: new potato and green bean salad with bacon-shallot dressing
New potatoes are readily available in the spring and summer months so there is no reason not to use them as often as you can. Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and road-side stands all offer up wonderful varieties while the weather is hot. For this recipe you’ll want to choose either a waxy variety, like most fingerling potatoes, or an all-purpose variety, like Yukon Gold or Red Gold. Starchy varieties, like Russets, will also work but tend to fall apart more easily after they have been boiled.
Another great farmer’s market find this time of year are green beans. Call them what you will — pole beans, string beans, runner beans, snap beans — these beauties are best when small and freshly harvested. Just-picked green beans are sweet and vegetal and are one of my favorite crops when it comes to pick-your-own. They grow prolifically on their vines which makes them a great crop for kids to help harvest. Teach them to pinch the beans off at the stem (don’t pull!) and they will fill your bag or basket in a matter of minutes.
We are in love with the carrots from Chickadee Creek Farm in Pennington, NJ. I’ve mentioned them in our posts before but think I’m becoming a bit of a junkie. We give them a starring role in many of our recipes and I start getting nervous when our supply runs low. Raw, they are like candy. Cooked, they are sweet and rich and so much more “carroty” than our regular grocery store carrots. I’m not sure how farmer Jess Niederer does it, but these truly are the best carrots ever.
One Thursday in mid March I happily stumbled on the winter Princeton Farmer’s Market that occurs once a month during the colder months at the Princeton Public Library. Of all the wonderful winter produce set up on the Chickadee Creek table — and, with several varieties of greens, heads of garlic, daikon radishes and more there was a surprising amount of it! — I made a beeline for the carrots. The supply in our crisper drawer was nearly depleted and I giddily jumped at the chance to replenish our stock.