Plato’s Potato Salad Recipe – The Requisite Summer Cookout Side Dish

Bobbie sez:Bobbie says:

Am I the only one who thinks a summer cookout just doesn’t seem right without potato salad? Whether you’re planning a barbecue for the July Fourth Independence Day here in the states, or planning a small family picnic; this easy potato salad recipe will round out the menu nicely.

I had a fear of making potato salad for a while. When I still lived at home, my parents had a friend, who was a very nice lady; but a rather dreadful cook. Her chili was thin and watery and I doubt a single chili pepper in any form was ever anywhere near it; and her potato salad was crunchy. Not from crisp, fresh bits of celery or onion, or even bacon. It was the potatoes. My husband has a similar story, of a beloved relative whose potato salad was spoken of only in hushed tones so as not to hurt her feelings. I did not want to be THAT person.

And when I finally decided to give it a go, guess who I turned out to be? Yep. The crunchy-potatoes-potato-salad-maker person. Fortunately, it was only for my own household, no guests, and it was only some of the potatoes that were a bit not un-crunchy. So, mostly edible. I kept working at it, trying different methods for getting the potatoes just right, and tweaking the dressing based on family input.

I was certain I’d finally perfected my potato salad on the day my husband referred to it as “Plato’s Potato Salad.”

We’d both had to take the same religion & philosophy course long ago at Grove City College, so I knew exactly what he meant. You’ve heard of Plato, that wacky ancient Greek philosopher? Well, he had this notion that things in the physical world were only cheap knockoffs of perfect things that existed only in the realm of thought. (No, seriously. It’s called Plato’s Theory of Forms. Look it up.) That chair you’re sitting on, comfy as it may be, is nowhere the ideal of perfect chair-ness that exists in your mind. So, when my husband called this Plato’s Potato Salad, I knew he liked it…

A lot.

Now that we’ve gotten the involuntary Greek philosophy lesson out of the way, on to the actual food discussion. I think it’s time for a picture.

Potato Salad - better and cheaper than the deli, with my lame atttempt at garnishing.

And there it is. I’m presentationally-impaired, so forgive my lame attempt at a garnish.

This is a pretty simple recipe, with only four chopped ingredients tossed with a non-sweet dressing. If you prefer yours on the sweet side or with – as we say at our house – “lots of stuff in it” then you might want to check out the potato salad recipe that Heather posted in 2009. That recipe also uses a different method of cooking the potatoes, which of course you could use here, as well. When I try it that way, I tend to end up making mashed potatoes and trying the potato salad again at a later time. It’s probably just my inability to pay attention to a timer beyond setting the thing. My method still uses a timer, but it’s slightly more forgiving in the paying-attention department.

 

Plato’s Potato Salad Recipe

  • 2 pounds medium potatoes (5 to 6) – enough to end up with 4 1/2 cups cubed, cooked potatoes
  • 6 hard cooked eggs, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (yellow or purple)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Wash the potatoes, scrubbing well with a brush if they’re very dirty. You want them completely free of dirt before cooking to avoid simmering the potatoes in muddy water. That wouldn’t be conducive to tasty tater salad. Get ‘em clean, kids.

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the potatoes in one layer, and make sure it has a lid that fits well. Fill with water to a depth of 1 inch and bring to a boil. Add the whole, clean and not-peeled potatoes. Cover tightly and return to boiling. Reduce heat to a high simmer and cook 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. If you can push a table knife (not a sharp knife) easily through to the center of the largest potato, they’re done. Drain and allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them enough to peel.

While the potatoes are cooking and cooling, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar and pepper. Set aside. Oh, and if you haven’t cooked your eggs yet, git ‘er done.

Here’s how I peel the cooked potatoes: take a sharp, non-serrated paring knife and use it to scrape the skin right off. I hold the knife so the blade is perpendicular to the surface of the potato. It comes off rather easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, or smaller if you prefer. Chop up the eggs into bite size or smaller pieces. I like big chunks of egg, but others may not. If you want to garnish with egg slices, cook an extra egg or two, then peel and keep in the fridge to slice just before serving.

 

Put the potatoes, eggs, celery and onion in a large bowl.

Pour dressing over and gently mix until all pieces are coated well.

 

 

Transfer to storage container or serving bowl and cover. Chill a bare minimum of two hours, but preferably several hours or overnight. Salad should be stirred gently before serving (or before adding your garnish if you’re doing that)

Recipe makes 3 1/4 pounds, or about 14 half-cup servings

Bobbie Laughman shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. You could report her, but you know they’ll just laugh at you. Besides, you know he had it coming, so instead you should go check out her blog Gruntled. Sheveled. Whelmed. Send questions to Bobbie@Home-Ec101.com

Caprese or Sliced Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Heather says:

Sometimes recipes are so basic, so simple, so easy, that I forget to include them here on Home Ec 101. Insalata caprese is one such recipe. This recipe shines in the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak, but sometimes it just beckons in the depth of winter. If it’s not tomato season, spend extra on the premium, locally grown, hothouse tomatoes. If you live where those aren’t available, just hang on, the tomatoes have to shine or it’s wasted money.

Insalata caprese is a perfect dish to bring to someone’s house, especially if they are having an Italian meal. It’s also great for summer potlucks or hors d’oeuvres. Concerned that you don’t know how to chiffonade basil? Don’t worry it’s just a fancy word, even the newest cook can handle it and Bobbie wrote a tutorial on basil chiffonade.

Enjoy!

: Insalata Caprese

: Simple, Sliced Salad

  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh Basil, cut into chiffonade
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper* to taste
  • Optional** Balsamic Vinegar

Insalata Caprese Directions

  • Alternate tomato slices and mozzarella to fill the serving plate.
  • Sprinkle with the basil chiffonade.
  • Salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.

*do not reach for that pre-ground stuff, I’ll smack your hand
**balsamic vinegar is not optional in my world.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 0 minutes

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet tags: Gluten free

Culinary tradition: Italian

Submitted to Mouthwatering Monday, What Makes You Say Mmmmm, and Tasty Tuesday.

Cool as a Cucumber – 2 Quick and Easy Cucumber Salad Recipes

Bobbie sez

 

Bobbie says:

Got cucumbers coming out your ears? Here are two very simple ways to enjoy that bounty: the vinegar-based Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad and a Creamy Cucumber Dill Salad with a yogurt or sour cream dressing. You’ve got better things to do than be in the kitchen all day, so try these quick-to-prepare salads. The tangy vinegar-based cucumber salad should be made at least 4 hours ahead of time, preferably longer, but the yogurt and dill cucumber salad can be served immediately.

 

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad

  • 2 to 3 medium cucumbers
  • 1 small onion
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper in a quart jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover tightly and shake well until sugar is dissolved. (Sugar amount may be adjusted to taste – some people do like it sweeter, some more tart. I find this amount is a good middle ground that can be enjoyed by most.)

Wash cucumbers and peel, if desired. Slice the cucumbers thinly (1/8 inch or thinner, if you can manage). Peel and slice the onion thinly as well. Layer the sliced veggies into the jar of vinegar/sugar. Seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably 8 hours or overnight. Shake the jar occasionally, if you think of it. Any container may be used of course – I just find a leakproof jar very convenient, as I usually prepare this salad to take along and share.

 

Creamy Cucumber Dill Salad

For this next recipe, I prefer to use a thick, greek yogurt, preferably one made with whole milk. Barring that, I substitute some good, real sour cream for half of the yogurt, which helps increase the Creaminess Quotient, thereby hiking the Make-This-Again-Soon Factor. Also, I have been known to toss a finely minced garlic clove in this salad on occasion. Try it!


  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 2/3 cup yogurt or sour cream or mixture of both
  • Additional chopped red onion and dill weed for garnish, if desired

Wash and peel the cucumbers, then quarter them lengthwise. Cut the quarters into appoximately 1/4 inch slices and add to a medium mixing bowl with the chopped red onion. (Why are they called red onions when they look so purple to me?)

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and dill weed evenly over the cucumbers and onions, then plop the yogurt on
top of it all. Using a large spoon, gently stir with a folding motion, until mixed well and all pieces are coated with the dressing. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with additional chopped red onion and just a pinch of dill weed. Serve immediately or chill for an hour or two.

 

One last thing.

Cucumber Salad - make it prettyMake it pretty. If  neither you nor your guests mind eating cucumber skin, you can skip the peeling step and do this instead: wash and dry the cucumbers, then scrape the tines of a fork the full length of the cuke, on all sides, before slicing. This gives you cucumbers slices with frilly edges, which adds eye appeal to a salad. Personally, I do this only if I can get unwaxed cucumbers from a local market rather than from the grocery store. While the coating material is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, I just don’t care to eat it.

 

Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver and freelance writer living in Gettysburg, PA. One of her favorite pastimes is the annual game of “Dodge the Tourists and College Students” played by area residents, whether they want to or not.

Contact Bobbie at Bobbie@home-ec101.com if you have a question you’d like her to answer.

Simple Tomato Salad Recipe and Basil Chiffonade Tutorial

 

 

Bobbie says:
What’s the best way to eat a homegrown tomato?

1) Open your mouth.
2) Take a bite.
3) Swoon.

I’m totally serious, but you’re probably looking for something just slightly more involved. Make a Simple Tomato Salad. The most basic version is merely to arrange sliced tomatoes on a plate or cut chunks of tomatoes into a bowl, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a plop of mayonnaise. Toss (or don’t) and serve. I’d never thought of serving just tomatoes and mayonnaise until my husband asked for it. Simple, yet satisfying.

Honestly, some heirloom varieties have such a splendid tartness to them that the juice itself can sub for vinegar – it combines with the oil or mayo and makes a lavishly flavorful dressing, needing nothing more than salt and pepper for completion.

Still wanting a little something more – like an actual recipe? Can do, but if you have genuine homegrown tomatoes that are already amazing on their own, keep them center stage. Create a salad around the tomatoes to highlight, rather than overpower, their delightful piquancy. Use just a few other ingredients to enhance that all-too-rare tomato experience without diverting attention from the star player.

As an example, here’s a tomato, onion and basil salad with the simplest kind of vinagrette possible – drizzle and you’re done. The hardest part is the basil chiffonade, and even that’s pretty easy. Never heard of chiffonade? Don’t panic – it’s a twenty-five dollar name for a simple, useful technique. Let’s get started.

Simple Tomato Salad Recipe and Basil Chiffonade Tutorial

  • 4 large fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large, very ripe, homegrown tomatoes, about the size of your fist. Use an heirloom variety, if possible
  • 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • Black pepper to taste, freshly ground if you have it
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Chiffonade is French word, literally meaning “made of rags.” It’s a method for easily cutting herbs or leafy veggies (such as lettuce or spinach) into long, thin strips. It’s handy here because, while fresh basil is a wondrous thing, discovering you’ve got an entire basil leaf in one’s mouth is not appreciated by everyone. This technique yields lovely little strips that mix into the salad nicely.

Wash the basil leaves and pat dry. Trim off stems, if present, so you have only the leaves. Stack the leaves on your cutting board, and, starting from a pointy end rather than a side, carefully begin to roll up the stacked leaves. Neatness is not important here – just try to get them into a roll about the diameter of your pinky finger, more or less.

 

 

 

Firmly hold the rolled leaves on the cutting board with the fingers of your non-knife hand, then using a very sharp knife, slice the rolled basil leaves into thin strips, about 1/8 inch wide. Set aside.

 

 

 

Wash the tomatoes and trim off any spots you find unappealing. Some tomatoes have a stem (or core) that go deeper into the tomato than you may find in other varieties. These parts can have a woody texture, so be sure to find and remove all of the stem/core or you may have an unpleasant surprise in your salad. (It won’t hurt you – it’ll just be rather hard to chew and taste more like tree than tomato.) Cut the tomatoes into largish chunks, right into the serving dish.

 

 

 

Thinly slice the sweet onion and cut the slices into halves or thirds, separating the layers into strips. Add
these to the dish, then scatter the basil over the top. Give a light sprinkling of salt and pepper to the veggies. Drizzle with the olive oil, then the vinegar. Let stand at room temperature up to half an hour.

Toss gently just before serving. This is a salad that can be served as an appetizer. Oh, and the wondrous blending of olive oil, balsamic vinegar with the tomato juices & seasonings will beg to be sopped up with a good, crusty bread.

 

Balsamic vinegar (in my opinion) is perfect with tomatoes, but experiment with red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Use different onions, or use no onions. Or try shallots. Or….garlic! Vary the herbs. Use a combination. Or use none. Toss another veggie into the mix: a bit of colorful sweet pepper, either fresh or roasted & peeled. Cucumbers &  tomatoes, chunked, then tossed with  mayonnaise is a very quick and surprisingly good salad when you need something last minute.

What’s the surest way to kill a good tomato? Refrigerate it. Oh, it still LOOKS like a tomato, but the texture is transformed from firm to mealy, and the sharp flavor will become dulled. Personally, once a tomato’s been chilled, I’ll only use it for cooking. For peak flavor and best texture, homegrown tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and used as they ripen. I’m not passionate about many things in life, but decent tomatoes are near and dear to my heart, and I will do without fresh tomatoes rather than eat the flavorless, mealy pretenders that are foist upon us out of season.

The rather bossy opinions expressed herein are those of the author, Bobbie Laughman, and not necessarily those of the management of Home Ec 101.

Last-Minute Bean and Corn Salad Recipe

Bobbie says:

Have you ever been almost, but not quite, ready to serve dinner when a giant light bulb goes on over your head (so brightly that everyone in the room gets an instant tan) because you suddenly realized that all you actually have prepared for dinner is grilled chicken and potatoes? Or burgers on buns? Or…whatever and NOTHING ELSE? If you’ve never forgotten to plan (and actually prepare) side dishes, you are officially Better Than Me. If you have, then Last-Minute Bean and Corn Salad is a side dish you should keep up your sleeve. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

Four salad ingredients get tossed in a bowl with four quick dressing elements, et voila! You’ve got mail salad.  And if you’re the one who never forgets anything — Hi there! I’ve always wondered if you really existed or if you were just an urban legend. Don’t you forget to try this salad, too, because it’s even better if you plan ahead and have the exact ingredients you want and don’t have to wing it with what’s on hand.

total brag photo - I took this picture and loved it and just wanted to show it off

Last Minute Bean and Corn Salad is a very flexible recipe. If you don’t have black beans, use pintos, chickpeas, kidney beans, or whatever you have on hand. Use any color bell pepper you wish – I’ve often used a combination of red and green.  The flexibility also goes for the onion – use your preference or what you have on hand. While I used scallions for the photos, I’ve also prepared Bean and Corn Salad with chopped onion – either red or a sweet onion would be good choices. (I’ve even used celery when I was out of peppers. Also, the onions can just totally be left out if you don’t have any, and it’s still very good. And one less item to prep if you’re crunched for time!)

My sister recently told me that Bean and Corn salad is also great served with chips, as you would use a salsa. She was right. If you are intending to use it as a salsa, you’ll want to finely chop the peppers and onions and use black beans or another variety on the smallish side.

 

Last-Minute Bean and Corn Salad Recipe

  • 15 oz can black beans (or your choice)
  • 12 oz can whole corn
  • 1 bell pepper (any color, or combination)
  • 3 scallions or 1 medium onion, either red or a sweet variety
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (lemon can be used, but I prefer lime)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce

 

Open the can of beans and dump it into a colander. Rinse the beans thoroughly then drain well. Dump those into your serving bowl. Open and drain the corn and add it to the bowl.

Clean the pepper and coarsely chop it into about ¼ inch pieces.

Slice the scallions, including the green tops. If using red or sweet onions, chop into pices about ¼ inch in size.

Sprinkle the cumin over all, then measure the lime juice, oil and soy sauce right into the serving bowl.

Using a large serving spoon, gently mix to coat the salad lightly with the dressing.

That’s it!  If you do what I have done in occasional moments of ” Determined To Be Organized and Prepared” and actually had containers of chopped onions and peppers in the fridge this could be an almost-instant salad.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately and use within 2 days.