Deputy food editor Hana Asbrink has 24 hours in the day and 379 things to get done. In her monthly column, “Shortcut to Dinner,” she lassos overachieving products to show weeknights who’s boss (it’s Hana).
For me, summer means cold soba noodles, even colder slices of watermelon, and any and every type of potato salad. I love them all, from the Asian-style ones I grew up eating (studded with boiled eggs and crunchy fruit and veg) to the German-style ones served warm (chock-full of crisp bacon plus lots of vinegar). But how about a version that marries the comfort of potato salad with the zing of Caesar salad? It’s a new favorite—and a breeze to make.
I live a stone’s throw from a Trader Joe’s, so expect to see a lot of their cult-favorite products in this column. And if you don’t, I’ll always offer handy swaps.
Trader Joe’s Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce This crushed Calabrian chili paste takes whatever it touches from zero to hero. Like any fermented ingredient, time unlocks concentrated flavor—with no extra effort on our part. It yields a peppery, tangy, spicy condiment that plays just as well on the side as it does incorporated into dressings, marinades, and sauces. If you can’t find the Trader Joe’s version (I’ve found its popular products sell out swiftly), Tutto Calabria’s is great and can easily be sourced online. Or pop into your favorite Italian deli to see what they have in stock.
Trader Joe’s Teeny Tiny Potatoes: Their cuteness demands a teary-eyed emoji. Bonus: No peeling—or chopping, for that matter—required. Their skins are thin and unobtrusive, so all that’s needed is a good rinse and scrub. While they’re the bulk of this dish, they’re eager to play second-fiddle too. Have them prop up your next roast chicken, or boil or bake them to have alongside any number of mains. For other recipes you can slice them into coins for a Spanish tortilla–style omelet, or give them a quick chop and drop into comforting soups.
For our Caesar base, we’ll gladly accept help from store-bought mayonnaise. Anchovies and Parmesan add deeply savory flavor, and fresh lemon juice keeps things bright. Give the sauce a taste before throwing in your tots. Isn’t it good? Just make sure the potatoes are fully drained before dressing (you don’t want to dilute the deliciousness). To finish, chopped scallions add welcome bite, plus some greenery.
Served still warm, the salad might give you patatas bravas vibes (oh yes). But it’s equally delicious at room temp and even cold, making this as ideal for a Tuesday dinner as a Sunday picnic as a leftovers-from-that-Sunday-picnic Monday lunch. My husband loves it alongside a good steak. I like it with a tangle of peppery arugula or handful of blanched snap peas (add them right to the pot of water a couple minutes before the potatoes are done). A crackly fried egg or can of oil-packed tuna would be wonderful too.
If you’re looking for other uses for that jar of Calabrian chili paste (a little goes a long way), here are a few: swirled into mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, or hummus for an easy sandwich spread or dip; mixed into your favorite tomato pasta or stir-fry sauce; dolloped onto your Friday night pizza with abandon (JK, be careful); added to your favorite grill marinades and vinaigrettes; forked into softened butter with minced garlic for garlic bread.