Yid.Dish: Potato Salad, and Everyone Loves a Loophole

By Rachel Somerstein

Published July 02, 2009.
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As a high school student at my Jewish Day School, I fancied myself a little rebel. Pajama pants beneath long skirts. Adidas in spite of the no-sneakers dress code. Briefly, a safety pin in one ear. (My parents loved that.) I wasn’t the only one –- with the safety pin, OK, yes, but my friends dressed similarly –- yet rarely, if ever, did these infractions cause trouble. “You got away with murder,” my mother recalls, with admiration. “You and your friends.”

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We did. I think the reason – aside from being nice girls from good families – is because we respected the letter of the law, but found our own way around it. In other words, we constantly searched for loopholes — a word that Merriam-Webster defines as “a means of escape, especially : an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.” (I also like, and did not know until this posting, that loophole can mean “a small opening through which small arms may be fired.”)

In my adult life, my interest in Judaic loopholes has found expression through my obsession with dishes that Taste As Though They’re Traif, or Should Be. Given the glut of vegan butters on the market, Smart Balance among them, the number of those recipes has increased exponentially. And you should have seen the day when I learned that [quinoa] is kosher for Pesach.

I also must be honest and admit that part of the food + loophole business stems from observing my mother’s confusion in her kosher kitchen. She is a terrific cook, but because she converted shortly before I was born, she didn’t have experience cooking per Orthodox law. So in the early days, she was plagued with questions: How do you make mashed potatoes, meant to accompany a meat meal, taste good and creamy without milk or butter? (Chicken stock, mayo, paprika, salt and pepper.) Is it possible to cook palatable split-pea soup without the ham hocks? (Yes; see the Barefoot Contessa version for proof.)

In the spirit of the loophole – and summer! – I’d like to share a recipe for a side dish you can bring to a meat barbecue. Guests who wish only to eat meat or parve dishes can enjoy them, and no one will notice what’s missing.

PARVE POTATO SALAD THAT WON’T STOP YOUR HEART Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

A few pounds red potatoes (the regular-sized ones are fine)

2 tbs Champagne vinegar

2 tbs vegetable stock

3 tbs dry white wine

2 tbs mustard

Bunch of fresh dill

Basil, if you have a fresh bunch on hand

10 tbs good olive oil

one bunch scallions

a couple handfuls snap peas

Boil the potatoes. Drain before they get too mushy. Chop roughly. In a large bowl, toss with white wine and vegetable stock while the potatoes are still warm.

Mix the remaining wet ingredients as you would any dressing; pour over the potatoes. Chop up the scallions, snap peas, dill, and basil, if you have it. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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