In the summer, we find a lot of excuses to use the grill. We grill a lot of vegetables -corn, broccoli, zucchini, you name it, but there's also my Aunt Jackie's famous grilled flank steak that marinates for days, hand-mixed burgers, local sausages, and even fish if we can find a sustainable source for it. We are always looking for fuss-free, make ahead dishes to tag alongside. Grain salads are always fun to whip up, but potato salad can be really comforting. It's cool, creamy, and the ubiquitous summer cookout food.
I grew up with the traditional mayonnaise and mustard version where the ratio of dressing to potatoes always seemed way too high. It was always a little disturbing when the "salad" would need soup bowls to contain it and soup spoons to eat it. Not being a mayonnaise aficionado either, I mostly avoided it. Then I was introduced to the German version where I was relieved to find oil and vinegar as the main ingredients. Not being a bacon lover, however, I would leave it out. The grainy mustard, punchy vinegar, and fresh parsley gave plenty of flavors to the potatoes. This oil and vinegar version has become the standard genre of potato salad we make in the summer, but I think this recipe takes things to another level.
Boiled potatoes become little sponges for whatever you dress them in, and this recipe dresses them in a beautiful and delicious dressing that pairs so well with the mix of yellow Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes that I used. I stumbled upon a Moroccan Potato Salad that Mike from the food blog The Iron You, made a a little while ago, and it looked too interesting to not give it a try. He uses olive oil, vinegar, AND Greek yogurt for a hint of creaminess and tang that works beautifully with the warm Ras el Hanout spice blend. If you are not familiar with Ras el Hanout, it is a North African spice blend with a variety of different spices such as coriander, turmeric, cardamom, clove, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but it can vary from brand to brand much like a curry blend can. It can also vary on spice level, so be sure to test how spicy yours may be before being too generous with it. The one I had on hand from was from Seasoned Pioneers and featured galangal root, dried rose hips, and even ginger, but you can also make your own at home from a recipe here. It is a lovely, surprising ingredient that will really add some interest no matter where you use it.
I modified a few things from the original recipe, especially since I like more green with my potatoes and a little less spice (as in heat), but the template is a winner. I also used a mix of sweet potatoes and Yukon Golds because I love sweet potatoes and it also was quite beautiful when mixed with the yogurt and citrus dressing and herbs. The dressing is a delicious dip, too, so feel free to make extra. They key to this salad, as Mike mentions, is to not overcook the potatoes. You want them to hold their shape rather than turn to mush so keep checking them a few minutes before the timer goes off. This only gets better as it sits, so you can make it several hours before or even the days before and all of the flavors will soak in. I hope you try it at your next cookout!
Two Potato Salad with North African Spiced Yogurt
2 pounds potatoes (I recommend a mix of sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold or red potatoes
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh herbs (I used equal parts mint, parsley, cilantro, and a few scallions)
1 tablespoon red wine or white wine vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the potatoes. Wash the potatoes, peel them if you would like, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. I like the peel so I chose to leave it on. Place chopped potatoes in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring water to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 6-8 minutes, checking around the 5 minute mark. Drain, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and orange zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Prepare the spiced oil. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the Ras el Hanout and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the oil over the cooked potatoes and stir to combine. Add the yogurt mixture and stir to combine, careful not to break up the potatoes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy! Serves 6-8 as a side.