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Light and lemony, a potato salad for spring

Recipe: Celery adds crunch; mint lends an herbal note

This potato salad has no mayonnaise -- it gets plenty of flavor from the lemon-mint dressing.

This potato salad has no mayonnaise -- it gets plenty of flavor from the lemon-mint dressing. Kathy Morrison

Potatoes deserve better than to be drowned in mayonnaise salad dressing. This recipe brightens potato salad with a lively combination of lemon zest, mint, scallions, celery and just a touch of dried pepper flakes.

The combination is perfect for any spring occasion. It works especially well for a picnic or potluck -- no worries about the mayo spoiling!

For best flavor, let the salad rest in the refrigerator or a cool kitchen for a few hours before serving, or chill overnight before bringing it to room temperature. Change up the herbs if you don't like mint -- try parsley or tarragon, for example. Also, the celery is there for crunch, but chopped nuts would work equally well (pistachios would be excellent). The lemon vinaigrette is about the only "must use."

Potato salad ingredients on a counter
Yellow potatoes play well with spring ingredients.

Note: Be sure to add that vinaigrette to the potatoes while they're hot, for best absorption.

Potato salad with lemon and mint

Adapted from a New York Times Cooking recipe

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 pounds small waxy yellow or white potatoes, all about the same size (I used Yukon Golds)

Zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus a bit more for serving

1-3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sliced scallions (green onions) or spring onions or a combination, white and light green parts only

3 or 4 stalks fresh green celery, trimmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo (Turkish) pepper flakes

Instructions:

Put the whole unpeeled potatoes into a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover them by an inch; sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the potatoes until just tender, not mushy, 15 to 25 minutes (depends on size).

Clear bowl with potato salad being mixed
Mix in everything while the potatoes are hot.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing: Whisk together the lemon juice, about three-fourths of the zest, the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, the Dijon, some freshly ground pepper, and the olive oil. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes and, while they're hot, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks. (Be careful with this! I dumped them into the bowl from the colander, and used a knife to cut them in the bowl, touching the potatoes as little as possible.)

Transfer the potato chunks to a bowl if you haven't already done so. Toss with most of the dressing, plus the sliced scallions, celery, mint, and Aleppo pepper flakes.

Let the salad cool to room temperature, or refrigerate for several hours. Add a little more vinaigrette if the salad seems too dry.

Just before serving, sprinkle on the rest of the zest, a little more lemon juice, some mint leaves and, if desired, more Aleppo pepper flakes.

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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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