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I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing... Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette

It's that time of year again...PICNIC TIME!  That's right, June 18th is National Picnic Day and every June for the past three years I've celebrated with Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations and everybody else who contributes to the giant picnic basket in the online picnic game.  There's something so intriguing about a picnic.  Food tucked away in crinkly wrappers and firm-sided containers...silverware and plates that run from plastic to bamboo to silver...bottles of wine and a corkscrew with some plastic stemware or sturdy plastic cups...linen napkins or papertowels...all snuggled in a cooler or a romantic basket.  Picnics can be as simple and no-fuss as sandwiches, fresh cut fruit and veggies, potato chips, cookies and cold, bottled water.  Or they can be as luxurious and sexy as smoked salmon with cream cheese spread, red onions and capers atop homemade crackers, fresh fruit gallettes, and a bottle of wine.  I think that is part of the fun...part of the surprise!  The fantastic thing about an online picnic is the variety of food that is in the basket, all contributed by a different person from the letter A to the letter Z.

One of my favorite picnic foods is potato salad.  I love it because you can dress it up or dress it down.  Soak it in a tangy vinaigrette of fold it into a creamy mayonnaise.  It can be mild and unassuming or zest and in-your-face.  You could probably make a different type of potato salad for every person in the world.  This is my current favorite.  I love potatoes and fresh green beans together...and I love using baby potatoes or fingerlings in a variety of colors (it adds to the fun).  The vinaigrette alone is a fantastic dressing not only for the potato salad, but also for spinach salads or other dishes in place of a plainer vinaigrette.  Enjoy...and let the picnic games begin!
Fingerling Potato Salad w/ Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette
adapted from Midwest Living June '11
serves ~8

salad ingredients:
1½ lbs. Fingerling Potatoes
sea salt or kosher salt
8 oz. fresh green beans, ends snapped
1 smallish red onion, sliced paper thin
1 lb. bacon
~2 oz. Feta cheese

honey-thyme vinaigrette:
¼ c. cider vinegar
1 shallot, peeled
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
½ c. canola or vegetable oil
sea salt or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

make the Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette:
Combine cider vinegar, shallot, honey, thyme leaves, and Dijon in the jar of a blender and process until smooth.  Throw in a couple pinches of salt and a few good grinds of pepper.  With blender running, slowly pour in oil in a steady stream until thick and glorious.  Set aside. (yield: ~1 c.)
prepping potato salad ingredients:
Place scrubbed potatoes in a large pot with water to cover by at least an inch.  Add about a teaspoon or so salt and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to a simmer and let cook ~8-10 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain and then spread the potatoes out on a sheet tray to cool until you are able to handle them.

Bring about a quart of salted water to a boil and add the green beans.  Let cook ~3 minutes, or until just al dente.  Quickly drain and shock the beans in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and hold in the bright color (no army green-beans here...).  Once they are cooled, drain beans for a few minutes.

By now the potatoes should be cool enough to handle.  I do prefer them to still be slightly warm, though.  This helps them soak up the vinaigrette.  Slice them in half lengthwise.  Add the potatoes to a large bowl with the green beans and red onion, then toss everything with about half of the vinaigrette.

Cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator* until ready to use.  In the meantime, I like to put the bacon in the freezer for ~½ hour, then take it out and slice it crosswise into ¼-½" strips.  Add the strips to a frying pan, pulling them apart from each other as you do a bit, with your fingers.  Cook gently, continuing to break the bits apart with your spoon, until just done.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.  Once cool, store in a baggy or container at room temperature until ready to serve.  (Reserve bacon grease for another use.)

putting it all together:
When you are ready to serve your potato salad, toss everything in the bowl around again.  If you would like to add more of the vinaigrette, do that at this time (if not, reserve the remainder for another use).  Toss in the reserved bacon and crumble in the Feta and serve.

*I also like to eat this salad warm.  If you would like to do that, then have the bacon ready at the same time as your potatoes and green beans, then simply toss everything together and serve.
Picnic Game 2011(175x225)
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