Earlier this month our family celebrated Aunt Joey’s 70th birthday, and in true island fashion, except for some slow-roasted pork, the food was all potluck. Almost 100 family and friends showed up to honor a woman loved by our small island, each of them bringing with them a prized picnic salad recipe. From the classics like macaroni, coleslaw, potato, and pea salad to newer ethnic salads, grains, lentils, kale, and arugula, there is always something for everyone.
After trying half a dozen of these homemade favorites and newer creations, I zeroed in on potato salads as quite a few of proud home cooks have approached me and asked which potato salad I liked best. Having made the mistake of giving my opinion a few too many times in my life, I hesitated and started talking about what they liked and didn’t like about potato salads.
They all agreed that you have to a start with a good mayonnaise, and they would never even think of using Miracle Whip. “What about pickles?” I asked. Only dill pickles, never sweet and the crispier the better. When it came to potatoes, they all liked the good old russet; red potatoes are too waxy. The mayonnaise, pickles, and potatoes they all agreed upon, but the remaining ingredients is where the recipes went in many different directions.
After our culinary discussion around the potluck buffet table, I took careful notes and created a potato salad recipe that compliments their ideas. I have also included a classic pea salad with mint and a seafood salad that is always a hit at any picnic. I have heard that September is going to be amazing this year, so call some friends, and try out some of these picnic salad recipes.
Smashed Potato Salad
When it comes to potato salads, we tend to prefer the recipe we grew up with that never can be duplicated. But why are all store-bought potato salads so bad? In my opinion it’s the ingredients that make a good salad. I use only Best Food® mayonnaise, Clausen pickles, russet potatoes, and a rich dressing that tastes like a creamy version of deviled eggs. I never use sweet pickles or any other mayonnaise substitute, most likely because my mother never made it like that. A few other ideas to add to your potato salad are artichoke hearts, green olives, capers, roasted chilis, radishes and, of course bacon, which goes with everything.
Directions: Cook peeled russet potatoes until fork tender and cool in refrigerator until chilled, about 2 hours.
In large bowl combine green onions, celery, dill pickles, olives, and parsley. Divide the cooked potatoes in half and chop one half into bite-sized pieces and mash the other half, then add all potatoes to vegetable mixture. Separate the cooked egg white from the yolks. Finely chop the egg whites, then add to potato-vegetable mixture. Reserve the yolks for the dressing.
Add the cooked egg yolks to a medium-sized bowl. Smash the egg yolks with the back of a fork until the yolks are a fine powdery consistency. Add mayonnaise, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, seasoned salt, and pickle juice. Using a wire whip, mix ingredients until well combined. Add to potato-vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before serving.
Sweet Pea Salad with Mint
Directions: In a large bowl combine sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and white vinegar. Stir with a wire whip to a smooth consistency.
Angel Hair Seafood Pasta Salad
When making this recipe, use medium-sized shrimp and avoid bay shrimp. Ask for wild Mexican white shrimp, which are caught in the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. Shrimp are sized by how many shrimp of the same size it takes to make a pound. The perfect size for this salad is 26-30s, or 26 to 30 shrimp per pound. If you cannot find 26-30s, the next size up is 21-25s and the next size down is 31-40s.
Directions: In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, add 1 quart of water, salt, and 1 teaspoon olive oil and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente or firm to the bite. Rinse with cold water, then toss with remaining olive oil and refrigerate.
Peel and devein the shrimp, and cut each shrimp into 3 to 4 bite-sized pieces. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add shrimp and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp are pink and opaque in the center. Pour shrimp into heatproof bowl and place in refrigerator to cool.
Using a food processor, add the green onions and celery, and pulse to finely chop (do not pulverize or liquefy). In a large bowl, add cooked shrimp, green onions, celery, cooked capellini, lemon juice, mayonnaise, Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. Mix well, cover and place in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Serve in a lettuce cup with tomato wedges.