These colored baby potatoes from Weiser Farms were so beautiful at last week's farmers' market, I had to buy them. When I served them at dinner that night, they were so delicious I thought I might cry. New potatoes in spring. It's one of those blessed, blessed flavors you wonder how you live the rest of the year without.
I grew up in a house that ate potatoes one way: baked, great big Idaho thudders, with margarine on top. The first time I tasted a real potato, I was in my early 20s and visiting a friend in Ithaca in the early summer. He was still in graduate school; I had escaped my tiny Manhattan apartment for a few days of real air. We went to - okay, I can't actually remember. It might have been a farm stand. Or an actual farm? Or a neighbor near the house he was tending for the summer? Something like that.
We brought home a bag of small new potatoes and, as instructed by the grower, boiled them tender in very, very salty water; she called them "salt potatoes." We ate them with our hands, standing up in the kitchen. I remember the way the skin held taut under my teeth, and I had to bite down harder than I was expecting to get to the silky inside. The flesh was seasoned but not salty. The salty slick of skin mixed with the flesh. Pure potato.
Here's the recipe for these rainbow salt potatoes, if you need one; it's on my LA Cooking Examiner column. But it's pretty foolproof. Gorgeous baby potatoes; very salty water; heat and time; butter and a sprinkle of coarse finishing salt. The coarse salt is more for texture than taste, because, of course, the potatoes will already be salty on the outside.
I know there are many more ways to prepare potatoes. But in the spring, I rarely do more than this. And it's enough.