Thursday, September 1, 2011


Potato salad with lemony dressing.
Invited to a friend’s barbecue supper, I offered to bring a side dish.  How about potato salad? I make a Spanish-style potato salad, ensaladilla de patatas, also known as  papas aliñadas. Unlike most American-style potato salads, it has no mayonnaise, but a lemony olive oil dressing.

But, how was I to know that José also was bringing potato salad? His was another version, this one with mayonnaise, called ensaladilla rusa or “Russian” salad.

It was shaping up to be a mano a mano of potato salads! I watched as guests tried one or the other, sometimes both. Gotta admit, the mayo salad is more seductive. But everyone who tried my version raved about it.

Both versions of potato salad are popular in tapa bars in Spain. In fact, I would bet that ensaladilla rusa is the most requested tapa of all times. It’s a real guy favorite. 

I asked José (José Antonio Ruiz is manager/creative director of Caravelle Design ) for his recipe. He said it was his mother’s recipe and the secret was to use homemade mayonnaise, not mayonnaise from a jar, made with either a mild-flavored olive oil or with sunflower oil.

If you read Spanish, see his notes. My recipe follows. Unlike Jose´s version, it does not include shrimp and tuna.

Para la ensaladilla, aparte de las patatas, el huevo picado y la zanahoria, usar guisantes, pepinillo en vinagre picado muy pequeño, pimiento morrón en bastante cantidad, no sólo para adornar, aceitunas rellenas, alcaparras, langostinos cocidos y pelados. NUNCA USAR MAIZ. (no corn kernels).

En vez de atún, usa bonito del norte y la mayonesa es casera, no de bote, con aceite de oliva muy suave o con aceite de girasol.

También es importante el punto de sal en las patatas antes de mezclarlo todo y dejar que repose todo por lo menos 12 horas antes de comer.

Ensaladilla Rusa
“Russian” Potato Salad

Makes 8 tapas or 4 to 5 side servings.

4 medium potatoes (1 ¼ pounds)
3 carrots, peeled (6 ounces)
½ cup fresh or frozen shelled peas
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 piquillo peppers chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped pickle
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
capers, drained

Cook the potatoes and carrots in boiling water to cover until tender. The carrots will take about 12 minutes; the potatoes a total of 20 minutes. Cook the peas until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain vegetables and chill them.

Peel the potatoes and cut them in ½-inch dice. Cut the carrots lengthwise in quarters, then slice crosswise into small dice. Combine the potatoes, carrots and peas in a bowl. Add the salt, oil, chopped piquillo peppers, egg and onion.

In a small bowl combine the pickle, mustard, parsley, mayonnaise and vinegar. Whisk until smooth. Stir into the potatoes. Let the potatoes stand 2 hours at room temperature or, covered and refrigerated, up to 24 hours. Serve cold or room temperature. Garnish the top with capers.

Potato Salad with Lemony Dressing
Papas Aliñadas

Potato salad with green beans.
Spanish potato salads are usually made with mealy baking potatoes that soak up lots of the tasty dressing. Take care not to overcook the potatoes, or they will disintegrate.

Tip: Potatoes will slice without crumbling if you chill them before peeling and slicing.

This salad often has chunks of canned tuna added to it. If you use a good brand of tuna in olive oil you can use the oil from the can to flavor the potatoes.  The potato salad pictured at the top has sliced quails' eggs. The one to the right has sliced green beans added to the potatoes.

Serves 10 to 12 as a tapa or 6 as a side dish.

5 to 6 medium potatoes (2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for garnish
1 (3 oz) tin tuna, drained, for garnish (optional)
Strips of tinned red pimiento, for garnish
12 pitted green olives, for garnish

Cook the potatoes in their skins in boiling water until just tender, 20 minutes. Drain. When cool, peel and slice the potatoes.

In a large bowl, combine the salt, onions, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice and parsley. Add the potatoes and combine gently so the potatoes are evenly covered with the dressing. Allow the salad to marinate for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or, covered and refrigerated, up to 24 hours.

Spread the potatoes on a platter. Garnish them with sliced egg, chunks of tuna, strips of pimiento and olives.

©Janet Mendel

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