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March, 2009

Peruvian Potato Salad

By Heidi Allison

From the home of the potato comes this South American twist to an American picnic favorite.

Peruvian Potato Salad
In Peru, potato salad is done with a lighter hand. Rather than using greasy mayo as its base, boiled, thin-skinned potatoes are dressed with garlicky, red-wine vinaigrette. The secret ingredient that makes this unusual dish work is the refreshing flavor of fresh mint—which adds an unexpected and delightful back note. While the classic version is topped with anchovies and hard-boiled eggs—this rendition is adapted for the American palate. In this recipe, it is crucial that you use thin-skinned boiling potatoes, which contain less starch. These cultivars have a firmer texture than their Russet cousin, and hold up better in cold salads. And the mint brings more to the table than just good taste—researchers discovered this herb contains a phytonutrient, perillyl alcohol, which prevents colon, skin and lung cancer. It is often prescribed by herbalists to sooth the digestive tract since it relieves stomach aches and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, mint slows down the proliferation of harmful bacteria and fungi. This healthful herb is also used to ameliorate asthma and some allergy symptoms as well. Peruvians use several tricks to make this recipe quick and easy— first, shock the hot potatoes in cold water immediately after boiling. This step makes the skins shrink from the flesh and easier to peel—you can just use your fingers—no knife needed. Also, the garlic must be macerated in an acid (vinegar), which adds a good garlic flavor yet tames its “bite”. This recipe is a nice, healthy change to an old favorite!

Peruvian Potato Salad
Serves: 4-6

14 boiling potatoes, scrubbed (about 30 ounces)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp. minced fresh garlic (about 3 cloves)
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
20 turns of black pepper (about ½ tsp.)
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (about 1 1/2 Tbs.)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ medium red onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
5-8 cherry tomatoes

Preparation:
Place potatoes in a pot of cold water (cover by four inches) and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until a knife slides easily into the center of the potatoes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. Using your fingers, peel off the skin of the potatoes and place on a bowl. Cover and let cool to room temperature. Cut potatoes into ¼-inch slices and place into a large bowl and set aside. In a bowl, add the red wine vinegar and garlic. Using your fingers or the back of a fork, smash the garlic into the vinegar and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Drain the vinegar mixture through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Toss out the garlic and set the vinegar aside. Into a small bowl of ice water, add the sliced red onion rings. Let sit for five minutes, then remove and pat dry with a paper towel. Chop the onions into a ¼-inch dice and set aside. Put the vinegar in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Stir in the jalapeño and red onions. Pour 4 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar over the sliced potatoes and gently toss. Put into a serving bowl and drizzle with an additional 1 tsp. of dressing. Top with mint and cilantro. Garnish with cherry tomatoes around the perimeter of the salad and serve.

Notes from the Author:
This light and healthier rendition of potato salad contains half the calories of regular potato salad.