I went to the market today dressed like an off-duty Parisian prostitute: black lace bralette, sheer shirt, and high-waisted black shorts, my hair piled atop my head in a suggestive knot (it was cute, but borderline inappropriate for my local Trader Joe’s). This ensemble was constructed not to attract potential johns to my lurid, pay-by-the-hour clutches, but rather as a means of mutiny against this oppressive Indian summer heat. Seriously, San Fernando Valley: this weather is almost as unforgivable as that time road construction on Canoga Boulevard made my 2-mile lunch hour trip to Follow Your Heart take 45 minutes (what’s a girl to do when she needs a vegan Reuben even more than her hourly wage?).
The bright side of the Southern California Indian summer (which tends to stretch well into fall, making my apartment an official no-pants zone from early June to mid-October) is that there is still ample time for outdoorsy affairs. And more to the point: outdoorsy foods!
Bringing a people-pleasing vegan dish to a backyard soiree can prove challenging, particularly if the majority of guests are staunchly omnivorous. Cupcakes and other baked goods are generally welcomed, but being holed up indoors, baking, when the outside world approaches oven-like temperatures is neither environmentally nor pragmatically desirable. (Also, if you lack fellow vegan company, there is a chance you will be unable to eat anything but your item, and should you find yourself with a hangover at 4 p.m. because you’ve been drinking diligently since your timely arrival and now have nothing to eat but a semi-melted chocolate chip cookie, well. Your bloodsugar will not appreciate your lack of foresight.)
Luckily, many of the dishes traditionally served at barbecues can be easily veganized: potato salad, bean salad, macaroni salad, green salad, fruit salad, and even non-salad items(!) like kebabs. Last summer, I brought skewered, rum-and brown-sugar-glazed pineapple to grill in various backyards, mostly because I was too lazy to devise anything more elaborate. But this year, my poverty-induced ingenuity yielded what may be the best potato salad recipe ever. I know the season for this dish has technically passed, but really, kids: it’s never too late for potato salad. So come on! Bid adieu to skin cancer’s favorite season with obesity’s favorite side dish:
Gringo Potato Salad
¾ lb waxy potatoes (I like fingerlings), chopped into bite-sized chunks (Sweet potatoes would also be great here, making this an ideal dish for the summer-fall transition!)
2 jalapenos, roasted, seeded, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup Vegenaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Bacon Salt (Bacon Salt is always vegetarian, and sometimes—blessedly—vegan. I use the Applewood flavor. If you disagree with my use of Bacon Salt, or if you have difficulty finding it, chipotle powder also works nicely–but be aware that it will elevate the heat of an already moderately spicy dish. And remember to add salt!)
½ tsp granulated garlic
¼ tsp cumin
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this potato salad is assembled in roughly the same manner as its more basic counterparts:
1. Bring water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until easily pierced with a fork. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cool water.
2. Now is a good time to prep the rest of your veggies (all two of them): chop your green onions and roast/seed/dice your jalapenos. Don’t know how to roast a jalapeno? See below for a tutorial.**
3. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add chopped veggies.
4. Next, make your sauce. You can mix it in a separate bowl if you would like—that will ensure that everything is well combined. I didn’t here because…hard work. Anyway, add Vegenaise through cumin and stir to incorporation.
5. Taste and adjust flavors as necessary. Think it’s absurdly salty? Well, yeah it is—you just put in two teaspoons of salt and then you added mustard. But don’t worry: the assertively salty flavor mellows out. Besides, mmmm. Hypertension.
6. Refrigerate for a few hours; preferably overnight.
7. Bring to your next barbecue, place it next to the conventional potato salad, and gloat over its culinary superiority.
**Okay, so, wait: you’ve never roasted a pepper? What were you doing in your early twenties, going to college and playing beer pong? Fair enough, you educated lush.
Time to play with fire!:
- Wash your pepper.
- Grasp it with tongs and heat it over open flame. (A gas oven range is the most conventional way to do this—but hey, if you feel compelled to set fire to your ex’s Magic the Gathering card collection and roast jalapenos over the flaming pyre, who am I to judge?).
3. When the skin on the pepper blisters and blackens over most of the surface area, toss it into a bowl covered with saran wrap.
4. After about 15 minutes, remove the pepper from the bowl and peel the skin. It should come off easily. (It’s wise to wear some kind of hand protection while you do this, lest the capsaicin of the pepper embed into your cuticles. On that note, avoid touching your face while handling these, too: I once inadvertently snorted a jalapeno seed during an ill-fated green sauce experiment, and I suspect my nasal passage has never fully recovered.)