Potatoes may not be the first thing on your list to throw on a grill, but potatoes and grills belong together. This is just the kind of salad I would have wanted for a White House Congressional Picnic menu: it’s colorful, unusual (purple basil, purple potatoes, almonds, cucumbers, and cilantro pesto), and it doesn’t have any ingredients that would spoil as it sits on a buffet in the brutal Washington heat.
The annual Congressional Picnic is an enormous outdoor party that the President throws each year for Members of Congress and their families. We did the best we could to work around the summer weather, with a huge marquee to protect the food, multiple serving lines, legions of kitchen staff and a menu that was varied, non-cream-based and tasted good at room temperature. Even the flowers on the one hundred picnic tables had to be carefully considered: hydrangeas wilt quickly in the sun, but sturdy sunflowers on a yellow and white-checked picnic cloth looked fresh and appealing all day.
I like this recipe because the flavors and textures meld together well, and the color is spectacular. The cucumber adds crunchiness, and the almonds enhance the grill flavor on the potatoes. One note: don’t overcook the potatoes. After a quick parboiling and grilling, they should still remain firm.
Grilled Purple Potato Salad with Cilantro Pesto
Prep time: 40 minutes
- 1 pound small purple potatoes
- 1 small seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- ¼ cup purple basil pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt plus 2 tablespoons of salt for boiling the potatoes
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
For the cilantro pesto:
- 1 ½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped
- ½ cup almonds, toasted
- ½ cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.
- While they are cooking, fire up the grill.
- Strain water from potatoes and slice them in half.
- Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and the salt and pepper and brush on potatoes.
- Grill for 2 minutes on each side, remove from grill and place in a serving bowl.
- Mix all of the pesto ingredients and process in a food processor for 30 seconds.
- Add basil and cucumber to potatoes, then add pesto and mix well.
- Place in refrigerator and if possible, allow to sit overnight to allow the flavors to be absorbed into the potatoes.