Updated: Jun 21
Hello! Ada here. It’s roundup time! If you want some recipe inspiration for your very summery CSA shares, scroll to the bottom. And if you want to hear about my newfound inspiration for German potato salad, read on.
Recently, I won badges (in an Instagram contest, nonetheless!) to the Hill Country Film Fest which happened in Fredericksburg - nearish to where I live. (Sidenote, please go and see Deep in the Heart if you’re able!) My husband and I took the opportunity to play tourists in town, cruising Fredericksburg’s Main Street with beers in hand and more in the queue. On one corner, there was a young boy crooning some Hank Williams while playing guitar. It was a surprising sight as Fredericksburg isn’t usually kind to buskers. He made me think of the Walmart boy, but this person was softer, a few years older, and more cowboy - like he just rolled in from a dusty ranch in Junction to entertain wine-drunk tourists. Or else he was a really good actor. Anyway, I ducked around the corner to dig for a tip, and found another woman doing the exact same thing. We both tipped the young singer, continued on, and then were reunited a block later. The woman’s name was Karin, and to my surprise, my husband, who is usually an ardent introvert, invited her to join us for dinner, and then to come to our house the next day so she could see a real-life Central Texas homestead - tiny cabin, angry rooster, goats and all. Karin, who lives in Belgium near the border of Germany and the Netherlands, was on a solo road trip across the United States - a bucket list trip for her to celebrate her retirement. Most recently, she worked at a Ford factory.
Over curly fries and Hill Country blues music, I told Karin about the Club Home Made cooking classes Becky and I used to teach. To my surprise, she also had some experience organizing cooking clubs. In 2015/2016 when the flow of refugees to Belgium was at its height, Karin and her daughter started a nonprofit that gathered the newcomers over food and the act of cooking. Part dinner party and party cooking class, different women from different parts of the world would take turns teaching each other some typical dishes from their home countries. Participants were introduced to local grocery stores so they could figure out where to shop, and also were given the opportunity to practice shared languages, all while sharing their own foodways. After Googling Karin’s name (we all do this, right?), I found several pieces of press about the project and plopped one in Google translate. "What pleases me the most is that connections are made outside of the cooking project, that people greet each other on the street, that people hug you because you are now friends," says Karin Maldinger-Jochims.
While in Fredericksburg, Karin had a disappointing German “potato salad” - air quotes that she provided. To her taste, the potato salad as we know it was more akin to mashed potatoes, and she was expecting something else entirely. The next day, she drove out to our house and together we made what she calls potato salad, which truthfully, is somehow more salady. Laughing, she took a picture of the finished bowl of potatoes to send to her friends back home who she said would be amused. The potato salad seems to be her signature dish, one that friends were always requesting she make. And here she was, in Doss, Texas, whipping up the same dish with a few pounds of new potatoes that I had just harvested from our garden. A recipe shared, and a friend gained!
Be well, and enjoy your potatoes! According to Karin, this potato salad only works with small, waxy potatoes - just like the Yukon gold and red potatoes you’re receiving from the Vrdnt shares. Too starchy of potato (like a Russet), and the salad will end up mealy. Scroll to the end for Karin’s Potato Salad Recipe.
Karin’s German Potato Salad (Scroll below) Crispy Smashed Potatoes
Karin’s German Potato Salad
While eating leftover potato salad a few hours after Karin left my house, it occurred to me what a treat it was to be shown a recipe by someone who has a distinct and decisive opinion on how it should be done. Working in my small, hot kitchen with my own familiar pots and cutting boards, but dancing to someone else’s instruction, was a fun experience. The pressure to host somehow dissipated- if this potato salad was a flop, it was on Karin. When you read a recipe, you may find yourself wondering if you did it “right”. Often, I meet that question with a shrug and the assurance that I likely won’t make something inedible. Anything goes, and often everything does! But this potato salad was edited, the parameters a nice confine to cook within. Also: maybe you cook and don’t wonder at all. There are many ways to peel a potato, and without wondering, maybe you’ll only ever do it the way it was first taught to you. Which is fine, to be sure - the potato is peeled - but I enjoyed learning the way Karin takes the barely-cooled boiled potato, makes a shallow slit in the skin with a paring knife, and then scrapes the skin off while holding the potato. I wondered if she thought we were heathens for snacking on the discard pile of warm, earthy skins. We were kind of hungover.
There are lots of details in this recipe, mostly there because I don’t want to forget them. This potato salad was an excellent reminder of how good room temperature or cold, boiled vegetables can be - a perfect strategy to get through some simple weekday lunches this summer. And also, the recipe was a reminder of how invigorating it can be to meet someone new, from a faraway place; a welcome bit of expansion for when you don’t (yet) have a trip planned to said-faraway place.
Waxy potatoes - about 1.5 to 2 lbs.
Half of a small yellow onion, very finely chopped. Like, as small as you can go.
For the dressing:
Neutral oil; we used vegetable
Vinegar; we used white wine vinegar that Karin had bought at the store (along with chocolate) that we diluted with water, but ideally you would use a German-style vinegar which Karin tells me is significantly milder than our very-sour vinegar. See the photo below for her vinegar recommendations. (Cool handwriting, huh?)
White granulated sugar
Put your potatoes in a pot with a lid, and fill with water so that they just cover the potatoes. (Here, I resisted the urge to fill the pot all the way and to heavily salt the water. Also, I usually plop my potatoes in already-boiling water… I like that Karin starts hers in cold water! Maybe it helps it peel better? Or is just less fussy, overall?) Bring to a boil, and cover with the lid, checking for doneness after about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. The potatoes should be cooked completely through, but only just so. Use the paring knife that you used to peel the potatoes to pierce and check for doneness. They should be soft and tender on the inside, but should also hold up to slicing without falling apart.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and water to form a very simple vinaigrette. There are no measurements here, but I trust you can wing it. According to Karin, it’s very important that this dressing is not too sour. We used white-wine vinegar which we mixed with almost equal parts water to dilute. The dressing should be mild, slightly sweet, and rather unobtrusive. Truthfully, it’s the lack of big flavors that makes this dish so pleasing. The vinaigrette isn’t anything special.
Once your potatoes are cooked, put them in a colander and rinse them with cold water for just a few seconds. Once cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes using a paring knife and a scraping motion. It helps to first score a slice in the potato skin as a scraping starting point.
Slice boiled peeled potatoes into rings about ¼ inch thick. You can even do this directly over the bowl, holding the potato, if you’d like - a technique that reminds me of this viral video of a woman slicing squash. While still warm, toss the sliced potatoes with the dressing and finely chopped onion. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust as needed. The effect of tossing the warm potatoes with the oily dressing is to create a luscious bowl, really more akin to a warm bowl of pasta where slices of potatoes are swimming around each other. Ideally, you let your salad sit for at least 20-30 minutes at room temperature before eating. As instructed by Karin, keep leftovers at room temperature if you plan to eat them later that day, advice I hesitantly heeded, but was glad I did. So many boiled or roasted vegetables truly do taste most like themselves when at room temperature, a fact that Karin intuitively knows.
I resisted the urge to add glugs of olive oil, freshly chopped dill and parsley, and a dollop of yogurt to the bowl. I had a jar of *homemade* mayonnaise, and even that didn’t make the cut. When the hot, sliced potatoes were waiting to be dressed, I couldn’t help but think how easily a pad of butter would melt in them. But I was the student, Karin the teacher, and I’m grateful to have been reined in. Karin told me some versions have sliced cucumbers mixed in, and excitedly I had cucumbers, so the next day I did just that - served my potato salad with sliced cucumbers, as well as some cold, boiled beets. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the novelty of having Karin at our house, or maybe it was a week of eating heavy restaurant food and french fries, but for whatever reason, that bowl of potato salad and beets was my favorite meal I’ve had in quite some time, and believe it or not, I made the exact thing less than a week later, and plan to do it again and again throughout the summer. If you’re feeling uninspired in the kitchen, I encourage you to boil some veggies, and eat them at room temperature. It’s a nice change from the tomato-centric salads that are usually in heavy rotation in the summer. Like Karin, there is an easy sturdiness and class to a bowl of boiled and dressed potatoes, one that simply allows for an uncomplicated invitation.