Potato salad with pickled onions and purple olives

Picnic baskets filled with bowls of potato salad, marinated green beans, fried chicken and carrot cake. Those are the family food treasures that come to mind when I recall summer visits to the Lago di Garda. As a child I remember being mildly surprised by the detailed questions my Mom’s friends inevitably asked her about just how she made her potato salad. To me it was as constant as the sunrise and brown-bag lunches for school every morning. Obviously potato salad was meant to taste like my Mom’s, and it was something she was pretty famous for.

I tailored her original recipe ever so slightly over the years.  My Mom tasted my translation of her delicious potato salad and she happily approved.


  • 12 medium-sized new, red, fingerling or russet potatoes
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 organic eggs
  • 75 grams of purple Kalamata or Taggiasca olives
  • 2 small red onions
  • 50 ml white wine vinegar
  • 25 grams of organic honey
  • 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 grams of thick Turkish yoghurt or homemade mayonnaise
  • 25 grams of Dijon mustard
  • sea salt  and cracked black pepper
  • an espresso spoon of celery seeds
  • a small bunch of young flat leaf parsley

Wash the potatoes and scrub the skins clean with a brush.  Put the potatoes in a pot with three bay leaves and cover them with cold water. Add a tablespoon of sea salt and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook the potatoes about 15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes in a colander. When the potatoes are cool enough to touch, remove their skins. Cut the potatoes in half and then into a large dice.

Meanwhile, peel the red onions and cut them in half. Slice the onions evenly lengthwise and cut them into an even small dice. Whisk the honey into the vinegar until the honey dissolves. Bring the vinegar to a simmer in a sauce pan. Cook the onions in the simmering vinegar about four minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions will turn bright purple. Drain the onions while they still have a crunch, saving the vinegar in a bowl.

Fill a small pan with water with sea salt and bring it to a boil. Add the eggs and boil them exactly ten minutes. Drain the eggs and cool them in a bowl of cold water. Peel the eggs and dice them the same size as the onions.  Remove the seeds out of the purple olives and chop them coarsely. Mix the potatoes, eggs, marinated onions and olives in a salad bowl.

Make a dressing with the red onion vinegar marinade, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, yoghurt, sea salt (preferably Celtic), celery seeds and cracked black pepper. Taste the dressing for the right balance between sweet, spicy, tart and smooth. Add vinegar, olive oil, mustard or honey if necessary. Stir the dressing through the potatoes and allow the flavors to blend a few hours.

Wash and dry the flat leaf parsley. Serve the potato salad with its decorative green sprigs.

♦  Suggested combinations
I love potato salad with steamed globe artichokes.

♦  Notes
My Mom always mixed red pimento through her potato salad. Grilled red peppers or pimento can be added just before serving, giving the salad a beautiful color and earthy flavor.  In her famous potato salad, she used mayonnaise instead of yoghurt to make her dressing and preferred pickle relish to marinated onions.

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