Batata Bil Zaytoun: Potato And Olive Salad
Moroccan week continues, here at the Choosy Beggars. First came Chicken with Chestnuts and Prunes, followed by a crunchy-hot-sweet-tart Carrot and Onion Salad, and now Potato and Olive Salad. Are you craving mint tea and saffron laced couscous yet? Have you started decorating your walls with brightly colored mosaics and telling people that you’re going to the souk when really it’s just Walmart?
Being a complete potato ho, I eat the tubers every chance that I get. As for olives, well, I have been known to sit and watch a movie with a jar of olives and a fork….and no one makes it out alive. The first time that I saw a recipe for potatoes and olives I thought, “OH YEAH. OH YEAH, OH YEAH, OH YEAH.” But the first time that I ATE potatoes with olives I thought, “OOooooohhhhh YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH.” That was in a Moroccan potato salad (Batata Bil Zaytoun) which I have done my best to replicate for you.
So there are a few things that you should know about this salad:
1. It may not be conducive to French kissing strangers on the subway.
2. Like a fine cheese, it just gets better with age…try it the next day and you’ll see what I mean. Just, uh, just not TOO much age. If the potatoes start to sprout from within their tupperware home, you may want to reconsider your leftover theory.
3. Olives with potatoes can do no wrong.
Batata Bil Zaytoun
- 3 lb waxy new potatoes *
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 cups good quality green olives*
- 1 small yellow onion
- small bunch parsley
- 1.5 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
* I used a mixture of baby red skinned, yellow flesh and Peruvian purple potatoes. For the most part they taste pretty much the same, but I do really enjoy the color variance. It’s important to use waxy potatoes because they’ll hold together better and absorb lots of that flavorful dressing.
*I know, I know. I’m like a broken record. But really, this is no time to break out that jar of pimento stuffed manzanilla olives that you keep in the pantry for nacho night. Use a good quality green olive – Moroccan green olives, if you can find them. If not, maybe Picholine in a pinch? Or briny green Manzanillas that have not been stoned, if all else fails.
Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Boil them until they’re deliciously fork-tender, but not enough that the skins start to peel back. While the potatoes boil you have more than enough time to put together the rest of the salad. Because, well, I do like side dishes that come together quickly and easily.
Press or rasp your garlic cloves into the bottom of the bowl you will eventually be using to serve the salad. After all, if you can conserve dishes that’s never a bad thing. Pour in the olive oil (I really like a slightly nutty, full bodied olive oil for this dish), portion out the spices, squeeze in the juice of the entire lemon, and give everything a nice whisk to combine it.
Slice the onions very thinly into rounds and toss them with the dressing. Give the parsley a rough chop and you can throw this in on top. Don’t mix it in just yet, unless you’re really compelled to do so.
When the potatoes are boiled they should be drained and you can let them cool for a few minutes if you’re the type of person that values your fingertips. I’m pretty sure that my digits lost their prints about 15 years ago when I first started waitressing so I can be as impatient as I want. When the potatoes have cooled enough that you can handle them without agony, cut each one down the middle and throw them into the bowl.
Add the olives to the bowl and give your warm potato salad a good toss to coat every last spud with the luscious lemony vinaigrette that it deserves. Don’t forget to season quite liberally with salt and pepper.
I’m a fan of flexibility, and this salad speaks to that. It’s delicious warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled.
Speaking of flexibility, we served it with chicken THIS TIME, but can you imagine how good it would be with a nice fresh filet of cod? Or some barbecued lamb? Oh man, potatoes and olives. That’s where it’s at.
I am submitting this post to Kristy at Where’s My Damn Answer, who is hosting this month’s Potato Ho Down on December 17th. If you’re a potato lover, you should check out the round-ups until your carb muscles start to itch.