A fat-free pesto dressing of basil and garlic covers red potatoes and green beans with flavor in this light, vegan potato salad.
Potato salads can be dangerous. I’m not just talking about Aunt Mabel’s mayo-laden concoction sitting outside at the picnic all day, growing an army of bacteria. No, I mean the less immediately life-threatening danger that typical potato salads present to those of us who love, love, love them but don’t love the added fat they normally are bathed in. Just because a salad—potato or otherwise—is vegan doesn’t mean it’s low in fat; most of them depend on a base of oil or vegan mayonnaise for moistness, flavor, and mouthfeel. It’s easy to take in much more fat than is healthy by doing a supposedly healthy thing and “filling up on salad.”
So, what to do? Instead of relying on fat, I’ve been taking advantage of the summer availability of fresh basil to make a potato salad that’s full of flavor but has zero fat.
The flavor comes from the basil, garlic, and lemon juice, and the substitute for the fat is the potatoes themselves. I make a pesto-like dressing in the food processor with the basil and garlic, but instead of using nuts or olive oil, I use a couple of the cooked red potatoes to give the dressing body and a slight creaminess. Lemon juice adds zing, and a little Shiro miso contributes a savory, umami flavor. And if you’re carb-shy, notice that the green beans lighten the glycemic load while adding fiber. I don’t think you’ll find a lighter potato salad than this!
- 24 ounces (680 g) small new potatoes
- 8 ounces (240 g) raw green beans
- ¼ cup (10 g) basil leaves, packed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 teaspoons light-colored miso (or salt to taste)
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- ½ red bell pepper, sliced
- additional lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Scrub potatoes well and cut into bite-size pieces. (Halve very small potatoes and quarter larger ones.) Bring a pot of water to a boil, add potatoes, and cook until just tender but not falling apart (10-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes). When done, drain and rinse briefly with cold water.
- Meanwhile, prepare the green beans. Trim ends and cut beans into bite-sized pieces, 1 to 1 1/2-inches long. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the green beans, and cook until tender but still bright green and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (Or steam in pressure cooker: place in steamer basket over boiling water, seal cooker, and cook for 3 minutes; use quick release to bring pressure down.) Drain water from beans and immediately plunge them into a bath of ice and water to stop cooking.
- To make the dressing, place 2 ounces of the cooked potatoes (60 g) into a small food processor or mini blender. Add basil, lemon juice, garlic, miso, and 1 tablespoon water. Process until creamy, scraping down sides and adding more water if necessary. Drain the green beans and add them to the potatoes in a large serving bowl. Gently fold in the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, to allow flavors to blend.
- Before serving, add the sliced red bell pepper. If you like, you can roast the strips of pepper briefly under a broiler to soften and sweeten their flavor. Taste for seasoning and add additional fresh lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper as needed.