Finnish Summer Potato Salad ♥ An Ode to Finnish Potatoes

Finnish Summer Potato Salad made with new potatoes and a simple vinaigrette. Vegan, paleo, easy.
Today's Recipe: Perfect for your Midsummer celebration this Friday and Saturday, a simple potato salad of new potatoes and a simple vinaigrette, made just like Finns make potato salad during summer. Gluten Free. Paleo. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real". Today's Conversation: A guide to the special spuds that come from Finland, a national obsession with potatoes this time of year.

A quick note: With this recipe, I'm experimenting with both a larger and a vertical-orientation photo. If you like it or if you don't, please do say! I don't expect any problems but just in case, especially on mobile phones and tablets, please do let me know if something's a little wonky. ~AK

I know, I know. Is a potato – a plain ol' potato??? – worth so much adulation? But yes, Finnish potatoes are special. They're firm but soft when cooked, the flesh is a pretty yellow color with thin and light-colored skins that peel easily with no more than your fingers. They're less mealy than a baking potato but not at all creamy like a red potato. But it's the taste, somehow better and more potato-y than other potatoes, that makes Finnish potatoes coveted, especially when they are "new" potatoes. Mind you, "new potatoes" is for-real, Finnish potatoes aren't just bred for smallness but instead are taken from the ground about half-grown, that's usually in mid-June near the summer solstice when Finland earns its name as the "land of the midnight sun".

So our timing was good! Earlier this month, we spent a week in southern Finland – and also some days in Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Copenhagen. Yeah, I know, lucky me, what a trip! Everywhere we went, requested or not, potatoes appeared on the table. Still not convinced?

When the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods traveled to Finland, host Andrew Zimmern named Finnish potatoes as his most-favorite moment. Check out the Top Five Moments in Finland video on the Travel Channel. No kidding!
Check out a story from the international edition of Helsingin Sanomat, the big newspaper in Finland's lovely capitol city, Helsinki. It's called Praise the Lord and pass the butter - the time has come for lovely, lovely new spuds. It's in English not Finnish!
During our trip, after a late and filling lunch with Pille Petersoo from Nami Nami in her hometown of Tallin, Estonia, we accompanied her home to a supper of boiled potatoes, fresh pickles, strawberries and a gorgeous rhubarb cake. Three kids and three adults went through a whole pile of potatoes, yes, they were "dinner" and soooo good! Pille's middle child, an adorable tow-headed boy of three, likes his new potatoes about 1:1 potatoes:butter. :-)


Finnish New Potatoes from the Kauppatori in Helsinki
Now good Finnish potatoes may not come cheap. We found all the food in the Baltic very very expensive but if I'm reading this sign from a stand in Helsinki's kauppatori (openair marketplace) right, last week Finnish new potatoes were selling for almost $30 a kilo, that's $13.50 a pound. Yikes!

So when new potatoes show up at the farmers markets soon, ask about Finnish potatoes. The two varieties that come up in Finland are "timo" [pronounced tee-moe] and "siikli" [seek-lee] but in the U.S. I've also seen Finnish potatoes marketed as "Yellow Finns" and even just "Finn" potatoes.

No luck finding Finnish potatoes? No problem. Do as I did when I made this recipe on our first day back, carefully picking the smallest Yukon golds from the potato bin at the grocery store. My goal here was to replicate the potato salad that my Finnish "sister" Ritva made for a casual weeknight meal for four last week: "just" smoked salmon and smoked whitefish with good Finnish rye bread, butter, some cheese, sliced tomatoes – and potato salad, new potatoes boiled and then tossed in a simple vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, olive oil, white wine vinegar and chive. "This is what we make in summer," she explained. And so I will ...

RECIPE for FINNISH SUMMER POTATO SALAD

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 40 minutes
Serves 8

POTATOES
2 pounds new light-skinned potatoes, preferably Finnish potatoes, otherwise small Yukon gold potatoes
Cold water to cover
2 tablespoons kosher salt

VINAIGRETTE (see ALANNA's TIPS)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Fresh chive, chopped
Salt & pepper, if needed

POTATOES Bring potatoes, water and salt to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and let water simmer until potatoes are fully cooked, a knife should slip easily into the center. Drain and if there's time, let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces.

VINAIGRETTE Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Toss Vinaigrette with either warm or cooled cooked potatoes.

TO SERVE Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. May be made ahead of time, in fact, it may actually taste a bit better on the second day.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
BOIL POTATOES IN COLD WATER We all know the general rule – right? – that when boiling vegetables that come from below ground – carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, say – that we start them in cold, salted water? But don't boil potatoes hard, they'll break apart. I fear that as boiling vegetables becomes passé, we'll forget the basics!
DRESSING HOT VS COLD POTATOES Hot potatoes will soak-soak-soak up the Vinaigrette which is great flavor-wise but may make the overall salad look and feel a little dry. To prevent it from happening, cool the potato pieces before tossing in the Vinaigrette. But if there's no time for cooling, toss the hot potatoes with about half the vinaigrette. If you're serving the potato salad right away, no problem, half the Vinaigrette is probably enough. But if you're serving the salad later, either at room temperature or cold, you'll want to toss it with the remaining vinaigrette just before serving.
SHARPNESS This is a slightly sharp Vinaigrette, if it's too sharp for your taste, thin it with a little more olive oil or even warm water, you could also add a teaspoon or two of agave (to stay vegan) or honey (if you like).
HERB SUBSTITUTES Fresh dill, parsley or another herb may be substituted for the chives.
POTATO SALAD & FOOD SAFETY Did you know this? Me either. According to this interesting piece in Cook's Country, it's not the mayonnaise in potato salad which goes bad when left out for more than a couple of hours, it's the potatoes!



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MORE SCANDINAVIAN / NORDIC RECIPES for MIDSUMMER CELEBRATIONS
~ Finnish Carrot Casserole ~
~ Swedish Red Cabbage ~
~ Swedish Beets ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Finn Crisp with Marmalade & Cheese ~
~ Finnish Summer Soup ~
~ Homemade Finnish Mustard ~
~ Finnish Fruit Tart ~
~ more Scandinavian recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

MORE FAVORITE POTATO SALAD RECIPES
~ Mom’s Potato Salad ~
~ Southwestern Potato Salad ~
~ Cauliflower "Potato" Salad ~
~ more potato salad recipes ~
~ more potato recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Confetti Potato Salad ~
~ Cornmeal Catfish with Warm Potato Salad ~
~ Sweet Potato Salad with Roasted Poblano, Roasted Corn & Chipotle ~
~ Favorite Summer Salad Recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

A Veggie Venture is home of 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2014


9 comments:

Perfect timing on this recipe, DH will be expecting his midsommar meal this coming weekend. He spent a summer in Sweden years ago and I think still dreams about the fresh potatoes (and strawberries). Just rub the potatoes and the skins come off and truly fresh new potatoes taste so amazing. Thank you to for the extra tips on when to dress the salad and interesting note on it not being the mayo going bad. I tend to avoid all mayo dressed salads at picnics when I don't know how they have been handled, funny its actually the potatoes I need to watch out for! KJill

KJill ~ Perfect timing, indeed! Those Nordic nights, they tend to capture our souls! If you’re interested in more recipe ideas, check here -- http://www.kitchenparade.com/2002/10/regional-international-recipes.php#scandinavian_recipes -- I’ve been collecting recipes for almost 40 years now! PS One of my Finnish host fathers always took the skins off his potatoes, I never understood that, still don’t! :-)

Great post, Alanna! The potatoes look wonderful. Your trip sounds dreamy, and how nice that you got to see Pille and her 3 kids! I remember our get-together all those years ago :)

Great recipe! I make a French-style potato salad that's similar, but no mustard int he vinaigrette (and no Finnish potatoes -- I need to try those!). I've also read about mayo not going bad -- apparently the acid in the mayo retards the growth of bacteria. You visited some wonderful places! We did a similar itinerary several years ago, on a cruise. Fun part of the world, but expensive, as you say.

I do love potato salad! And simply prepared potato salad when the potatoes are stellar is so delicious! This one you've made reminds me of the potato salads of my youth, when Mum would arm one of us with a pair of kitchen scissors and send us out to the back garden to cut chives for potato salad made with boiled PEI baking potatoes (that's pretty much all that was available in those days), mayonnaise, salt, pepper and chives. And maybe a dash of paprika if Mum was being fancy.

We have been reading, with fascination, "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created" by Charles C Mann and about what he calls the Columbian Exchange. It seems so ironic that potatoes from Finland taste more potatoey than potatoes from elsewhere, when you consider that all potatoes came from South America!

Nupur ~ Wasn’t that a fun potluck? Seeing Pille again and this time in her home with her “Dear K” (who is totally dear) and the three kids (who are TOTALLY dear) was a huge highlight in what, yes, was a dreamy trip. :-)

John ~ If you find Finnish potatoes, please tell me quick! For over a week now, I’ve been trying various varieties from stores/markets around town: no cigar. I even asked a potato grower: he’d never heard of them. :-( Guess we’ll have to go back. :-)))

Elizabeth ~ Oh I do so remember the PEI potatoes too which gets me to wondering if the shorter season - longer days makes a difference with potatoes. (Thoughts from the gardeners in the crowd???) And I’m off to check out the book, sounds fascinating to me too! Thanks for chiming in, always lovely to hear from you!

The easiest way to get Finnish potatoes may be to grow them yourself! I always include Yellow Finns in the potato section of my garden (seed stock from Peaceful Valley Garden Supply). They are great producers and so easy to grow, in the ground or any kind of container- even a trash can or 5 gallon bucket! And so much fun to harvest, especially for kids. Like an Easter egg hunt, but with dirt!

Heather ~ Genius! Off to check out your source and to figure out if late June is too late to put in potatoes. Thank you, thank you!

Oh, Alanna, sorry to only offer you potatoes for one of the meals. But yes, the new season's fresh potatoes (though nowhere as expensive here as the famous siikli-potatoes at that market) are considered so flavoursome and lovely, that they count as the main star of a meal with some little extras (pickles, sour cream, butter). We've had several potato-centred meals since then and only now start feeling that we've had enough and can view them as "simply potatoes" for the rest of the season ;)

Aksel does love his potatoes.

PS I don't think Paleo people really eat tatties so much!!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna