I call this a Scandinavian Potato Salad, because I discovered this fresh and light-handed potato salad years ago in Denmark. Most likely it was at a frequent family gathering, in the shadow of a thatched roof farmhouse in the Danish countryside, seated at a long wooden table outdoors with the summer sun hanging, as if caught on the hook of the horizon, refusing to sink as evening set in. I know it was summer, because that’s when the potato is at its peak in new-ness and considered not only a staple but a delicacy to be greedily devoured. I was smitten by the salad’s restraint, simply tossed with oil and vinegar and generously showered with fresh snipped herbs from the garden. As an American, my experience with potato salads to that point had been the heavy-handed mayo-egg sort, tasty for sure, but more of a cloak and disguise to the mild-mannered potato. I would prod a fork through those murky salads swathed in cream, sugar and oil in an attempt to fish out any morsel of potato, which by then had no flavor except that of the coating with which it was blanketed. The Danish potato salad was delightfully different, and appropriately Scandinavian in its understatement and use of fresh ingredients, celebrating the humble potato with a confetti of the garden’s herbs. Most importantly: I could taste the potato. And when the season’s newest potatoes are available, delicately sweet and faintly redolent of butter and grass, there is nothing as sublime as the taste of potato.
Scandinavian Potato Salad
I refer to this salad as “potatoes and herbes du jour,” because the combination of herbs is up to your taste and whatever might be growing in your garden. The chili flakes are my contribution to this salad, since I am hopelessly hooked on a little kick of heat. Serves 6.
3 pounds new potatoes or fingerlings, washed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups fresh herbs, chopped, such as parsley, mint, dill, oregano, chervil
Bring a large pot of salted water and the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender but not mushy. Drain. If using larger potatoes, cool slightly, then cut in 3/4-inch chunks. Toss with oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic, salt, pepper and optional chili flakes. Cool completely. Before serving, add fresh herbs and mix well. If salad is too dry, add additional olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
For more Scandinavian inspiration, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Red Berry Soup
Spiced Meatballs with Cranberry Compote, Yogurt and Dill
Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich (Smørrebrød)