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Memories are made of this

Indepencence Day stirs potato salad memories

Independence Day means different things to different people and families, in addition to celebrating the birth of our nation.

To some people, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks, parades and hamburgers on the backyard grill. To others, it’s a long weekend spent boating, hiking or race-car driving.



For me, it’s all about the potato salad. When I think of the Fourth, I can still smell my mother’s potato salad. It was one of her specialties.

Sue Halpern, in her latest book, “Can’t Remember What I Forgot,” has a chapter on our sense of smell. To summarize: The body’s olfactory system is closely allied with the brain’s limbic system, where we experience and process emotion. Memories that come through our nose are most connected with our feelings and tend to be the longest lasting.




Because taste travels mainly on the odor molecules embedded in food, what we eat have similarly emotional connections. Hmmm! It’s all coming back to me now. That’s why potato salad makes me feel cherished, loved, the center of everyone’s universe.

At our family Independence Day gatherings, my extrovert sister with the big blue eyes, cherubic face and curly hair was easily the center of attention. She could keep up with all the boy cousins whether it was touch football, kickball or taking a fish off a hook.

When it came time for dinner, though, I had a distinct advantage. My position in the family, which is a highly prestigious one in Midwestern families, was that of the “good eater.” My parents, the aunts, uncles, and grandparents all marveled at the amount of potato salad I could put away. Praises and attention showered over me like a sprinkler on the lawn.

The salad that follows is not your traditional Midwestern style potato salad, but a more modern derivation. It takes a little longer to prepare, but its vibrant flavor and beautiful colors are well worth the effort. This recipe makes a generous amount for two with a little leftover; double it for larger groups.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and professional recipe developer. She wrote “Vegetarian Barbecue” hosts “What’s Cookin'” on KVMR-FM. Contact her at pbess@jps.net.

Potato and feta cheese salad with fresh herbs

(Serves 6)

3/4 lb. small red potatoes

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 slice of red onion, 1/4 inch thick

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh mint, or substitute with dry leaves from a teabag

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less)

Four to five green onions, thinly sliced

One half a red pepper, diced

One tomato, chopped

One half cucumber, peeled and diced

8 to 10 inner leaves of romaine lettuce, cut into strips

10 to 15 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Garnish with dill sprigs or lemon wedges (optional)

Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water in a medium-size saucepan until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool.

Combine the dill, oregano, parsley, lemon juice, red onion, oil, lemon peel, mint, salt, and cayenne to a blender or food processor and puree. (This can be prepared a day ahead)

Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a large bowl. Pour herb dressing over and toss together. Add the green onion, red pepper, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, olives and cheese to the bowl and toss. Mound salad on plates and garnish with a dill sprig or lemon wedges. Serve at room temperature.


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