June 24th, 2011
I can hear my mom now. “There’s plenty to eat. Hard boiled eggs. A can of sardines. Some feta cheese and tomatoes.” This was her reply on many tired nights, after long days of work on her feet, when I’d complain, “There’s nothing for dinner!”
I was a young teen by the time my mom was pointing me to canned sardines for dinner (sardines?!) and, in her eyes, fit to cobble together sustenance when she simply didn’t have the energy to do it for me. Though she grew up differently, with a mom who cooked all the time, the sentiment was true to how she’d grown up in a Greek village. When they had to, kids took care of themselves and each other, and cheese, vegetables, bread and sardines composed a perfectly acceptable meal. Though I can’t imagine my yiayia would have pointed me to a can of fish had I complained to her, I get where my mom was coming from. It was her experience filtered through working-single-motherhood.
She didn’t always leave me to my own devices. There were times when my mother took care to feed me more deliberately. And there were dishes that defined some of those times. A version of this potato salad is one of them. It was something that, when she or I had a craving, she made with care, no matter how tired she was.
Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
This potato salad is an easy recipe. Not fussy or fancy—just simple boiled potatoes, fresh tomatoes and red onion tossed with oil and vinegar instead of mayo—and boy is it good! I love German potato salad for its use of vinaigrette over creamy mayonnaise, but it tends to be heavy which is why I like it in fall and winter. This Greek-style potato salad, on the other hand, is light. Maybe it’s the bigger chunks of potato, the perfectly ripe summer tomatoes, or crisp, vinegar laced red onions. Whatever it is makes this my go-to summer salad.
My mother’s version uses raw red onion; with tomatoes and potatoes, it’s the classic combo. When I have time, though, I substitute quick-pickled red onion. Sometimes my mom adds hunks of steamed zucchini.
Check out my recipe for Potato Salad with Tomato & Quick-Pickled Red Onion (can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)* at Momtastic. And keep the Quick-Pickled Red Onion recipe on hand for other dishes, too. They are easy to make and taste great with grilled meat, in pork tacos, alongside roasted chicken and more!
What dish did your Hungry Mama or Papa always make for you, with love, no matter what?
*Note: This salad’s mild vinaigrette is kid-friendly even for beginner eaters. You can mash dressed potatoes alone or with some tomato for kids still eating purees (thin the mash with water if neccessary). Otherwise, cut the veggies in age-apporpriate bite sizes and serve!