Potato Salad With a Spin

The words “potato salad” usually conjure up images of some soggy yellow mush, eggs spoiling and mayo turning rancid as it sits in the sun at your neighbors cook out. After you’ve shaken this image from your head and forgotten how much you hate screaming children and prepackaged food from wal-mart , give this potato salad a try! It employs Manzanilla olives, balsamic vinegar, parsley, and a zesty mirepoix to liven up that bland red potato. Garnish with a lemon slice for a bit of extra zing!

Assemble the following:

  • Orzo, cooked, cooled, and rinsed.
  • Large red potatoes cubed
  • Roma Tomatoes, also cubed
  • Portobello Mushrooms sliced to desired thickness
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Manzanilla Olives
  • Peeled and diced carrot
  • Diced red onion
  • Diced fresh garlic
  • Butter
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Never forget the olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, and salt

And do this with it:

  • Cube the potatoes so that you’re working with 1/4 inch cubes, this will make them cook quicker, and be easier to eat. No one like to have to cut up their potato salad. Blanch them in boiling water for about fifteen minutes, depending on how crisp you like them.
  • Cook the orzo and rinse it to remove the starch, the potatoes will provide enough starch to bond the whole thing together. In the end and we’re trying to avoid mushy here and too much starch will get you there FAST! Drizzle a little olive oil over it and toss it with some black pepper.
  • While the potatoes and orzo are cooling, whip up the mirepoix. Finely dice the carrot, onion and garlic. Keep the carrots separate from the rest of the mirepoix. You’ll see why in a minute.
  • Over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until it is just about to caramelize, then turn up the heat and add a couple of tablespoons of butter.
  • After the butter has melted, reduce the heat and add the carrots. You don’t want the onions or garlic to caramelize, unlike a traditional mirepoix.
  • As the carrots are softening up a little (not too much) chop the parsley, dice the tomatoes, and slice the mushrooms. Don’t let the carrots cook completely through; you want the flavour in the mirepoix, but this is a salad not a soup and again we’re avoiding mushy, so you want the carrots to be a bit crisp.
  • Saute the mushrooms and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil until tender, and set aside (juices included) for a while to cool and marinate. I say saute the hell out of them, you want these fully cooked and full of flavor. Just don’t burn the vinegar it smells awful, and will ruin the tomatoes and shrooms.
  • The mirepoix should be done by now, deglaze the pan with a few sprinkles of balsamic or a dash of your favourite wine, then remove it to a separate container with all it’s juices intact so it too can marinate in it’s buttery goodness. Throw some more balsamic on that if you’d like, but I prefer some ground pepper and a little sage.
  • Toss the potatoes with the orzo and parsley, not forgetting the olive oil and maybe a pinch of salt.
  • After everything else has cooled, blend everything except the olives and the tomatoes and shrooms in a large container.
  • Drain the liquid off the tomatoes and mushrooms, as well as the olives. If you have use for these save and combine the two liquids… I can’t stand to throw balsamic away and olive brine gives so many different things an unexpected punch, they’re an unstoppable team when used right!
  • Toss in the drained olives, tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Drizzle some olive oil and toss it all thoroughly.
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour (not critical) and garnish with a lemon slice and extra parsley when serving.


  • Don’t cook the potatoes at all, or maybe roast them over fire. The whole concept of this take on potato salad is to deliver a crisp, vegetable like crunch that you could easily add some zest to a picnic.
  • Be sure to rinse the orzo well, maybe even toss it with some salt and then rinse again to break down the exceptionally sticky starch bonds that orzo can create. Or if you like the salt, don’t re-rinse, just make sure you prevent the starch in the orzo from bonding with the rest of the salad as best you can. You want the potato starch to hold things together, not the pasta starch.
  • The mirepoix can be played with. It gives the dish it’s flavour, so changing the mirepoix can drastically change the outcome. I thought of adding crushed red pepper myself. Just make sure it’s not cooked to death, you want the crispy crunch of the vegetables.
  • Add uncooked veggies to the whole thing, the less mush the better!
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    Posted on May 15, 2009, in Recipes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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