It’s been a year since I left corporate life, and there’s not much that I miss about it. But I do miss my boss, Dana. He was the best boss ever, not just because he was good at his job and helped me be good at mine, but because he ended up being my friend, too, and that doesn’t happen very often. Early on we bonded over food and he would e-mail me pictures of what he cooked up that weekend and I would bring in samples of recipes I was testing. But one food conversation in particular will always stick with me, and it involves Bobby Flay. This southwestern potato salad also involves Bobby Flay, which explains why I am telling you this story. Otherwise it would just be a weird and random story.
Ok, so an important part of this story is that Dana and his wife Jan (who is AWESOME) have a friend, Mary Helen. One day the topic of Bobby Flay came up, and Dana said, “Mary Helen thinks Bobby Flay is a tool.” We both chuckled, as if to say, “Oh, that Mary Helen, what a hoot”, except that I had never met Mary Helen before and and really I was thinking, “who doesn’t like Bobby Flay?” Mary Helen, that’s who. Anyway….
A short time later Dana, Jan, and Mary Helen were in Las Vegas. I was at a garden sale shopping for plants (shocking, I know), when I got a text from Dana with a photo of a cocktail on a Mesa Grill napkin. Mesa Grill is a restaurant owned by none other than Bobby Flay. So, in response to his text, I wrote, “But I thought Mary Helen said Bobby Flay was a tool?” Dana replied that they all cracked up after reading my text. And that, my friends, is how I was formally introduced to Mary Helen.
And…there is no good way to segue back to this potato salad, other than to say that it is adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe for the potato salad that is served at none other than Mesa Grill. So let’s talk about that now.
If you don’t really like potato salad, this is the potato salad for you, because it’s nothing like traditional potato salad. And that’s a very good thing in this case. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love regular classic potato salad, but every now and then it’s fun to go off the rails a bit, you know what I mean? I’m not even sure I know what I mean, but let’s just go with it.
Where classic potato salad is blah in the looks department, this southwestern version is in-your-face colorful and smack-you-sideways tasty. Not to mention, it’s skinny jeans friendly because there is no mayo to be found. Instead, we employ the creamy yet healthy lusciousness of the humble cashew via the ultra-versatile Savory Cashew Cream. The smack-you-sideways part is courtesy of chipotle peppers, dijon mustard, garlic, and a kick of lime. For the color and crunch, bring on the red bell pepper, cilantro, scallions, and red onion.
Are you drooling yet? I wish I had a Mesa Grill cocktail napkin to offer you.
Last but not least, we need to talk taters.
You can use any potato you like for this recipe, but the best option in my oh-so-humble opinion are baby potatoes, like baby red bliss or yukon golds. Not only are they flavorful and hold up well, they are just so darn cute. My very favorite baby potatoes are sold by The Little Potato Company, because they make sure all of the potatoes are actually little. So often you’ll get a bag of baby potatoes and they’ll be all different sizes, ranging from an inch to a fist. Those are toddler potatoes, let’s be honest. So it’s no surprise that this spud-loving girl’s day was made when she saw this beautiful bag of baby tubers at Costco. But how to cook them? You’ve got options, but my go-to is the pressure cooker.
Every day I grow to love my Instant Pot pressure cooker more and more. It’s a quiet workhorse on my kitchen counter, handling everything from perfectly cooked chickpeas to homemade non-dairy yogurt to marinara sauce. Add to that list, potatoes pressure cooked to starchy nirvana. Little potatoes cook in 5 minutes on the Steam setting, or high pressure, with a quick pressure release after the timer goes off. Other than potato salad, having freshly steamed potatoes in the fridge is just a good idea in general. But for these here potatoes, things are about to get saucy.
A lot of people avoid potato salad because it’s a mayo bomb. Classic potato salad recipes call for a cup and a half of mayonnaise, which is basically straight up oil. Not here folks. My go-to mayo substitute is this Savory Cashew Cream. Raw cashews have a miraculous creamy quality when they are pureed with liquid, and they have now become a staple in my kitchen. Combined with a few other flavor boosters, you may find that it fills the space that the Best Foods or Hellman’s jar used to occupy. Add some chipotle, garlic, lime, and mustard, and all your southwestern potato salad dreams will come true.
The potatoes may have the starring role, but their backup dancers deserve a chance to shine as well. Red bell peppers add some crunch and brightness, scallions and red onions pack in the flavor, more crunch, and bold color, and the ultimate southwestern herb, my dear cilantro, freshens it all up.
Now all that’s left to do is to mix it all up and let it hang out for a bit to let the flavors get to know each other. Or just be like me and go fork to face the moment the last potato has been coated with the dressing.
I hope that if I ever meet Bobby Flay one day, that I don’t get all fangirl-y and nervous and blurt out, “My friend Mary Helen thinks you’re a tool.” Who am I kidding, of course that will happen. Self-fulfilling prophecy issued.
He sure does make a damn good potato salad, though.
Spice up summer with this Vegan Southwestern Potato Salad! This healthy version is oil-free but doesn’t skimp on flavor. Wow everyone at your next picnic with a major makeover on potato salad!
- 1 1/2 cups Savory Cashew Cream * (see notes for substitution options)
- 2 Tablespoons . chipotle puree (or 2 chipotles in adobo (finely chopped))
- 2 Tablespoons . lime juice (1 or 2 limes (depending on how juicy they are))
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (coriander)
- 1 medium red onion (diced)
- 3 scallions/green onions (sliced (save the roots to grow more!)**)
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced or grated with a microplane (or sub 1 t. garlic powder or granulated garlic))
- 3 pounds of baby potatoes (cooked until fork-tender, then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (see notes for pressure cooker suggestion)***)
- 1 red bell pepper (diced)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook potatoes until fork tender, by either steaming, boiling, or pressure cooking (see note for pressure cooking instructions). Let rest until cool enough to slice into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Mix Savory Cashew Cream, chipotle puree, lime juice, garlic, and mustard and stir until combined.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days (it won’t last that long). Garnish with additional chopped cilantro when serving, if desired.
*Sub vegan mayo for the Savory Cashew Cream, if desired (nutrition facts will change of course). If you don’t want to have the savory cashew cream left over (are you all right?), you can make just enough for this recipe by blending together 1 cup of raw cashews, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/2 T. nutritional yeast along with the chipotle puree, mustard, lime juice, and garlic before proceeding with the recipe.
**Save the root ends of the green onions and submerge in a small container of water in a windowsill. They will regrow so you can use them again! Or plunk them in a small pot with a bit of soil and they’ll grow that way also.
***Steamed potatoes are easy in a pressure cooker – I love my Instant Pot! For baby potatoes, place a steamer rack into the bottom of the IP insert, add 1 1/2 cups of water, and cook for 5 minutes on the Steam function. Use the quick release when the cooking time is up. For full size potatoes, cook for 13 minutes.