COOKING ADVENTURE #69: Panamanian Pink Potato Salad
Sometimes, there is really nothing like coming home from a long day at work and get lost in cooking dinner. It has been quite some time since I’ve done a Cooking Adventure dinner and I feel as though I’ve gotten out of touch with cooking a little over the last few weeks. My plate has been filled with lots of things this month and it has been easier for me to just buy frozen things at the grocery store to eat rather than spend time after working all day to make something. Last night as I got home and realized I didn’t have any pre-prepared dinner to make quickly. But I was also feeling a real need to get lost in something, have a real “zen” moment where I could find my calm. Somehow, cooking seemed like the way to go. And I have to say this was one of the most calming cooking adventures I’ve done yet. All of the tension and frustration I’ve been feeling melted away into a pleasurable act of creating this flavorful potato salad with a unique pink tint provided by one of the most delicious vegetables known to man; beets.
When I went to shop for the ingredients for this recipe, I immediately forgot half of them. I wasn’t sure exactly how involved it was. I picked up things I knew I would need such as potatoes (dur), a beet, and onion. When I got home last night and checked out the ingredients list, I was fortunate enough to realize that I already had most of the other items, with exception of carrots and celery. Now… a moment. I have never… ever liked the idea of celery in potato salad. It just doesn’t seem to fit texture-wise and taste wise with the other ingredients. While most everything else is soft (with exception of the onion), celery is crunchy and adds a very watery taste to the potato salad. So, I was kind of glad that I didn’t pick any up. I had garlic already and I have tons and tons of dried parsley. Whenever I try to buy fresh parsley, I only end up using a little and then let the other stuff dry out until its crispy… because I never use it!
I decided that while making my potato salad, I needed some music that would put me in the right “zen” mood. And what’s more zen than some music by Tan Dun, best known for composing the soundtrack to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Laugh… you may. However, if you’ve never heard this music before, you are sorely missing out on something wonderful. I happily moved into the kitchen with my tranquil music as accompaniment. The first thing was to peel and cut the potatoes. My vegetable peeler had a much more difficult time with this than usual, but instead of cursing at it and hucking it across the room, I kept calm (thanks to the music, see) and continued. Once that was done, I dumped the pieces in a pot filled with water and put them on a burner on medium high so that they would boil for fifteen minutes. While waiting for the halfway mark, I did the dishes… something that sorely needed to happen.
I got lost in doing the dishes and when I finished, I noticed that I had missed the halfway point. I was supposed to throw in the beet (uncut and unpeeled) to cook for the remainder of the time. I cut the ends of the beet off and tossed it in anyway, letting it boil with the potatoes for the remaining couple of minutes. When the timer ran out, I knew I had to take the potatoes out, lest they turn into a mushy white mess of goo. I took them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a separate bowl, then added more water to the pot and allowed the beet to boil. It was also at this point that I discovered that I was supposed to have added an egg to the water to hard boil for the last ten minutes. I snagged one out of the fridge and plopped it into the water with the beet and let them languish there together for the next ten minutes. The time went by and when the timer went off, I was disheartened to discover that the beet was still as hard as a rock. However, I didn’t throw my hands up in the air and holler, “You damn dirty beet!” I remained in control. I breathed. I let it boil another five minutes, remaining in my oddly new-found tranquility with the music. At some point, I switched it over to Thomas Newman’s The Horse Whisperer Soundtrack, yet another amazing soundtrack.
Finally, I was able to remove the beet and the egg from the water and dumped the pink water out into the sink, listen to it gurgle in the drain disturbingly. It was almost as if it was its own entity, waiting to bust out of the sink and attack. Again, horror writer. And I like to attribute that to the fact that I read WAY too many Goosebumps books as a kid and watched my brother play WAY too many horror games. Thank you, R.L. Stine and Tim.
As I was saying, I cut up the beet into half inch cubes and tossed them into the potatoes. I realized later that I probably should have diced them up smaller so that it wouldn’t be such a chore to chew the pieces but, I personally prefer my potato salad to have some substance and not taste super mushy in my mouth. Then, I did the same with the egg, first peeling its crackly shell away, then tossing it into the potato and beet mix. I looked at the directions and realized I wasn’t supposed to do that. Crap. I never screamed out loud though, lest I ruin my perfectly zen cooking adventure. I didn’t slam the egg into the tiles and say, “Quit messing with me, egg!” I grabbed a separate bowl from the cupboard and picked out the egg pieces from the potatoes, missing quite a bit of the yolk which had crumbled all over the place. I was supposed to mix the egg with a diced onion, chopped garlic, parsley, mayonnaise, and mustard. I wasn’t about to chop up an entire onion because I knew that would be asking for it. I decided to just use half. But, as I grabbed my onion from its spot on the rack under the counter, I discovered that it had already gone bad… and I’d only had it a couple days. This almost cracked my perfectly soothed head. Almost. But it didn’t. I prevailed.
I decided to not add any garlic either not wanting it to overpower the taste of the beets. The recipe honestly could have used two beets, in my opinion. One can never have enough beets. They are just so freaking divine! I ended up mixing in a couple tablespoons of parsley (the original recipe calls for a cup of it… in my opinion… that’s A LOT of parsley), 1/2 cup mayonnaise, and a tablespoon of mustard (it’s supposed to be a teaspoon but hell, I like mustard.) Then, after stirring it all together, I dumped this into the potatoes and beets and mixed everything until it turned a lovely pale shade of pink. Granted it was much lighter than in the original recipes (which was almost purple), but it tasted awesome! I ate it warm, which is apparently the traditional way of eating this and it didn’t disappoint. Yum. I want to make my potato salad like this all the time… especially while not screaming and throwing random kitchen utensils around.
Next week, I’ll be trying out a Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak recipe with homemade mashed potatoes. Stay tuned!