DISH: Grandpa Salad with Potatoes and Cheese
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Tomato, Cucumber
All summer, my family eats an easy salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped red onion, and olive oil. When the tomatoes are good, the cucumbers crisp, and the onion not too abundant, there’s almost nothing I’d rather eat. For unknown reasons, we call this salad “grandpa salad,” though it wasn’t invented by any grandpa I know, and it’s not any more geriatric-tasting than the next thing. It is, like an old man, kind of crotchety, and by that I mean it is an inalterable dish, and we do not mess with it. Variation in this salad is limited to the color and size of the tomatoes, yellow, orange, or red; cherry, plum, or old misshapen heirloom. It sounds annoying, but you can’t really make this salad when the tomatoes are not good. It’s just not quite worth it.
And yet recently my mother started tweaking grandpa salad. At first what she was doing seemed benign: she’d pack a lunch container with a bottom layer of toasted, cubed bread, then mound in the grandpa salad, then top it with some mozzarella or feta cheese. By lunchtime, the bread would have soaked up some of the juices, and when she tossed it all together, it resembled a cheese-punctuated panzanella. It sounded so good, I figured though “grandpa” perhaps would be rolling in his hypothetical grave, maybe he would give her a pass for deliciousness.
But then my mom ran out of bread and started substituting cubed cooked potatoes for the croutons. That, too, seemed an unlikely combination, one that didn’t particularly jibe with the mission of the original salad. And then of course I tried it—and then, of course, discovered that it’s a very good combination. It is a bit like a mayonnaise-less potato salad, the dressing coming from the tomato juices and olive oil instead. Even better, it gets richer and more tasty the longer it sits (to a point), and so it makes perfect lunch and perfect picnic fare.
From my kitchen, where mom and “grandpa” know best, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Grandpa Potato Salad
This salad really profits from a great olive oil, so if you have one you really like the taste of, definitely use it here. If you get into the tweaking, here are some other good things to add: canned/cooked green chilis, sliced kalamata olives, spoonful of toasted pine nuts.
2 medium tomatoes or 1 box cherry tomatoes
2 large Kirby/pickling cucumbers, cubed
1/4 medium red onion, very finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oillarge pinch salt
2 cups small Yukon gold or red potatoes
2 ounces favorite cheese
Wash the potatoes well. Put them in a large stockpot and cover with water. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, then let the potatoes simmer for about 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted into a potato goes in very easily. Drain the potatoes and dry. Cut the potatoes into large bite-sized pieces.If you’re using large tomatoes, cube them; cut cherry tomatoes in half. Combine with the cucumbers, olive oil, salt, red onion, and a little bit of salt (it’s best to undersalt now, then add a bit more before eating). Cut or crumble the cheese, then toss with the potatoes. Let sit for at least half an hour, then taste for salt and serve.