- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Here’s a great potato salad-and-condiment — all rolled into one.

This sturdy, dependable picnic side dish can be dressed up or down, equally suitable for a full-blown celebration or a quiet few bites under the pine trees.

The sturdiness and flexibility of this salad are partly a function of its mayonnaise-free dressing, namely the liquid from a jar of pickles.

This part is literally as easy as opening a jar and this simple marinade pretty much erases the perishability concern of standard picnic salads.

The other flexible feature is the longevity of the salad: You can make it up to five days ahead of time, and if you keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator, it might even be better. If you do make it ahead of time, remember to leave out the peas until the very last minute, so they will be fresh and bright green.

Any kind of potato will work in this dish. If you use a mealier, drier kind, like russets, the result will be fluffier and lighter.

If you go with a waxy variety, such as Yukon gold or yellow Finn, the salad will be creamier. It’s terrific either way.

For the type of pickles, use your your favorite brand of dill or the kosher sour-garlic kind, which is crunchier.

Dill pickle potato salad

6 medium potatoes (2½-inch diameter)

Water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced onion

1 large carrot, sliced into thin rounds

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2 large dill pickles (or sour-garlic pickles), finely minced

1 cup pickle marinating liquid (from the jar)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cayenne, to taste

1 cup shelled peas (lightly steamed if fresh; simply defrosted, if frozen)

Optional special garnish: raw sugar peas or snow peas

Scrub the potatoes (no need to peel), and chop into 1-inch cubes.

Place the potato chunks in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, and cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and wait for 1 minute. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan, then add the onion, carrot, caraway seeds and ½ teaspoon of the salt.

Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and the carrot is done to your liking.

Add the cooked vegetables, along with the minced pickles and pickle marinating liquid, to the still-warm potatoes and mix well.

Add more salt to taste, if needed, and season to taste with black pepper and cayenne.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, topped with a sprinkling of shelled peas, and if desired, framed with a circle of raw sugar peas or snow peas.

Makes 6 servings.

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