Summer is just around the corner and warm thoughts of sunshine, Prospect Park and Blue Marble ice cream are filling up my head space. One final project still looms before I actually receive my NYS teaching certification and can finally teach music in the public school systems. (We’ll leave the fact that I can’t technically get a job in New York City due to budget cuts and hiring freezes for some other time.)

Every year I make a mental check-list of all of the lovely summery activities in the city and inevitably, every year September rolls around much quicker than the end of my list:  New York Philharmonic concerts in the park, Coney Island, hiking upstate, Shakespeare in the Park, Celebrate Brooklyn…and the list goes on. One thing I ultimately have missed since being cooped up in school-land is just being in my own kitchen, surrounded by fresh ingredients and an idea to turn them into something spectacular. What better time to dive back into cooking than summer, when the farmer’s markets are filled with some of my favorite foods, just waiting to be thrown together and consumed with friends and family.

My husband and I recently had a conversation about summer barbeques and his distaste for them. I can’t say that I blame him, since as vegetarians we are often stuck eating a bun with a slap of Boca burger and ketchup in the middle. For the most part, we rely on the “sides” when attending barbeques, which is why I often find myself making pasta or potato salad to bring along to whichever BBQ we are attending.

Speaking of things to do: I definitely must add “hosting a gourmet and green barbeque” onto my list of things to do this summer. One that is comprised of salads, veggie burgers from scratch and homemade ice cream. Any takers?

So, in honor of sunshine and blue skies, I have decided to post a very special dish that will not only knock the socks off of any meat-eater at any summer BBQ, but also has deep meaning and family history.

I first tasted this gem of a recipe when I was last home in Minnesota with my Dad’s sisters. He would always tell me that I reminded him of his firecracker of a younger sister, Aunt Patty, so when she uncovered a potato salad made with pickles, I thought he really might be right. The dish was a serious smash hit… and it even made my husband agree that if this were present at a barbeque, he might really start to enjoy himself. Of course, this is assuming that beer is still invited to the party. No brainer.

When asking for a copy of the recipe, this is the response I got:

If you are to be a Potato Salad master, you should know the history. It came out of my Grandma’s cookbook. She learned it as a child in her hometown of Slovenska Nova Ves, north of Bratislava, Slovakia. She brought the recipe with her when they arrived at Ellis Island in 1918. I have seen the family put different twists on it over the years but the original is always the best. This recipe is from Grandma Sadie Bilcik and is referred to as the “Czechoslovakian Potato Salad”- Jeff (Patty’s husband)

So without further adieu:

Aunt Stella’s Czechoslovakian Potato Salad

From the Bilcik Kitchen

One bag of small red potatoes: about 20 small potatoes
One 32 Ounce Jar of Kosher dill pickles
One medium onion
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring potatoes to a boil. As soon as they feel done with a fork, take ’em off and rinse with cold water and let cool. You don’t want them to over cook or they will be mushy.

Chop onion and pickles into small pieces.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. I used a peeler to get things started and then peeled with my fingers for the rest, because the skins come off fairly easily. However this is the suckiest part of the recipe.

Take a paring knife and roughly cut each one into chunks and add to a large bowl. Into the bowl add the onion and pickles.

Add about a quarter to a half a cup mayo. About a quarter cup olive oil and vinegar. Then the salt and pepper. Gently stir together. (I used about ¼ cup of mayo and a little less than a fourth for both oil and vinegar.)

The main thing to keep in mind is a smooth, non-mushy consistency and flavor.

Make a full day a head and let sit in the refrigerator. Enjoy!