Simple Sides: No Mayo Potato Salad
By Dennis Linden
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food, and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks that will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge labor division based on age and ability and identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic; this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills, and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
What summertime backyard barbeque would be complete without a potato salad? Here’s a four-ingredient recipe perfect for introducing a novice cook to this iconic dish of the grilling season. Though the ingredient list is short, the preparation contains several useful culinary lessons. Plus, these ingredients represent a healthy upgrade from the classic dish by replacing the traditional artery-clogging mayo component with Melissa’s cashew-based Pesto Sauce. The healthy makeover continues with the addition of nutrient-packed fresh green beans and heirloom cherry tomatoes that add some needed color and texture to what would be delicious, though a rather uninteresting bowl of Baby Dutch Yellow® potatoes without them!
I like using Baby Dutch Yellow® potatoes for this dish as they are small enough to use whole and do not have to be peeled. Just boil them in salted water, a task that a child of any age can manage with adult supervision. When the potatoes are done, they should be CAREFULLY scooped out of the pot so the green beans can be blanched in the same water after bringing the pot back to a boil [culinary lesson #1]. Note: I left these small potatoes whole as a personal preference, as well as to demo the baby Dutch in the prep pictures. They could also be cut in half once cooled before combining with the other three components if one prefers. To stop the green beans from overcooking and maintaining a firmness, an ice water bath needs to be readied while the green beans cook for immediate immersion once they are fully cooked [culinary lesson #2].
Besides replacing the usual mayo in this dish, Melissa’s Italian Style Basil Pesto comes together to offer a fresh taste of Italy using olive oil, basil, cashews, garlic, lemon juice concentrate and salt. Swapping pine nuts out for cashews creates a creamier pesto with less fat and more protein per serving, making it a healthier alternative to the classic recipe. In other words, this isn’t Grandma’s pesto…or potato salad, for that matter! Enjoy the summer.
Pesto Potato Salad
2 pounds Baby Dutch Yellow® potatoes, skins on
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed at both ends (or petite haricots verts)
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
1 jar Melissa’s Basil Pesto
What the supervising adult should do:
Oversee the boiling and removal of the potatoes closely. It may be safer to remove the hot potatoes from the pot and let your helper carefully add in the green beans when the water comes to a boil again. The same judgment should be used in the transfer of the cooked beans to the ice bath.
What the kids can do:
Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and simmer until tender. Remove potatoes to cool, and bring water to a boil again.
Blanch green beans in the boiling water. Remove when tender and transfer into an ice water bath immediately. When cold, drain and slice beans in half.
Mix potatoes, haricots verts, and cherry tomatoes in a large salad bowl. Toss with one whole jar of pesto, which will lightly coat all the vegetables.