Everything is stupid, and so are we. Welcome to Jezebel’s Stupidest Summer Ever, a season-long celebration of our worst, most idiotic opinions.
If you went to a barbecue this summer and said, “Hey, what’s for eats?” and the host (a nice guy who has a grill and wants you to know it!) said, “Dogs and burgs,” you’d probably think, “Sounds like a barbecue to me.” But then, moments later, you’d be struck with a niggling sensation that something wasn’t quite right. Could it be that your meal is not complete?
Indeed, there would be a hole in your heart the size of one-to-three side summer “salads,” those bowls full of sun-heated, mayonnaise-centric glop intended to bulk up and round out a meal that you eat while sweating and standing.
For the follow up to our wildly successful First Annual Dip Competition, and in honor of the first official day of Summer, Jezebel held a competition to see who had the skills to blog and produce a passable potato/macaroni/tuna concoction. Just as they did last time, everyone filled out ballots. This time, Gizmodo Media Group Deputy Managing Editor Joyce Tang served as the guest judge.
Recipe: See below.
Chef’s statement: “I made tuna. I made it last night. It involves six cans of albacoré tuna, mayo, dijon mustard, pickle relish, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, shallots and celery.”
Judges say: “Feels like you’re actually eating as opposed to a mush, but not so full of discrete objects as to amount to eating just... objects.”
“A good tuna salad is hard to find, as the saying goes. It’s true. To have a tuna salad as elemental and simply good as this one is the key to any good cook’s success! As a base for pretty much anything, it’s a star.”
“Frankly, I always thought I hated tuna salad until being forced to eat this for the sake of the competition. I don’t know if it was Ellie’s recipe or my ignorance, but I’m here for this salad.”
Recipe: This, except with pearl couscous instead of barley.
Chef’s statement: “I made Israeli couscous salad. It was supposed to be a barley salad but I have decided that this, texturally, would be more interesting. And also because the grocery store did not have barley. I took the couscous and dressed it with a lemon and yogurt mixture to kind of brighten it up a little bit. To add a crunch to it there is English cucumber chopped up, and then for a little bit of bite there is scallion, but it shouldn’t be too overwhelming. And then because it is summer and I wanted this salad to scream that it’s summer, I included chopped mint and dill, both fresh. That is that.”
Judges say: “It’s the kind of salad that would travel well thanks to its lack of mayo, and the mint is refreshing and summer-y. The cuke is a good touch... Would pair nicely with BEACH BEERS! And a dash of marijuana on a nice summer’s day.”
“I really only make salads when asked to for a party and I enjoy bringing something a little pretentious. No offense, but this is a little pretentious.”
“It’s like eating a pillow of couscous with a crunch. Great feeling between my teeth and light enough to enjoy during a BBQ.”
Chef’s statement: “This is a potato salad. It has little baby yukon gold potatoes with celery and red onion and dill. The dressing is mayonnaise, buttermilk, dijon and whole grain mustard and salt and pepper and dill. I think that the onion and celery adds a nice crunch that contrasts with the mush of the potato. I’m super picky about potato salad but I think that this is one that even people who are like “eh” about it will be alright with.” (Brought chicken)
Judges say: “A yukon gold is the superior potato—firm yet creamy, yet toothsome in a way that’s very appealing. The dichotomy of rustic and refined is a goal rarely achieved! In this salad, she reigned supreme.”
“Weirdly light and refreshing for being potatoes slathered in mayo. The mustard and dill complicate it ever so perfectly. Truly an exemplary spin on a classic that redefines who we are as Americans.”
“It’s like butter. No wait, butter wishes it were this.”
1-2 lbs little baby red potatoes
1 bunch of dill, chopped
1 bunch of tarragon, chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley. chopped
1 c. mayo (Hellman’s is fine)
1 c. mustard (use Dijon or whole grain, live your life how you wish to do so)
1 lemon, zested
1-2 tbsp of lemon juice, or more to taste
salt and pepp to taste
Boil a big pot of water and salt it more than you think it should be salted—it should be like the sea. Once the water is boiling drop the potatoes in and cover them, boiling for roughly 15-20 minutes. They should be fork tender, and if the skin comes off the potatoes, that’s fine, too. Strain the potatoes and set them aside in a bowl and let them cool for a half hour or so.
Once they are cool to the touch, feel free to give them a pre-smash with your very clean hands OR the back of a large spoon, just enough to break the skins a little. Next, plop in equal amounts of mayo and mustard and fold with a spatula until the salad has reached a consistency that you enjoy —leave chunks if you like it chunky, and leave it not chunky if you don’t, I’m not the boss of you.
Fold in the chopped herbs. Fold in the zested lemon. Stir. Taste. Add salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice.
Let this sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours so that everything can settle. Serve. Be happy.
Chef’s statement: “I also made a potato salad. Visually, it is similar to Ashley’s. Here, I believe, are the differences. I used baby red potatoes, dill, tarragon, parsley, equal parts dijon, grey poupon specifically, and mayo, the zest of one entire lemon and then salt and pepper and the juice of half a lemon. She’s good.”
Judges say: “It was cool, minimalist, melted on my tongue. Would taste great with a spicy accompanying dish.”
“The perfect mixture of creamy and tangy. This hit the potato salad trifecta for me: salty, mushy, refreshing.”
“Tastes like fun in the sun. Tastes like memories. Camp. Etc.”
Chef’s statement: “I did not make it, and it’s less of an entry and more of a political statement in that I think the humble grocery store-made macaroni salad deserves a place in the competition. Even as the world moves rapidly past it.” [Maddie asks, “Wait, so you did not make this?”] “I didn’t. I don’t know the ingredients. It appears to be carrots and peppers, definitely elbow macaroni, and I think a lot of mayonnaise.”
Judges say: “Tastes like a BBQ, tastes like adult swim at the town pool. It’s a styrofoam plate, it’s the hot sun, it’s retro in the best way.”
“Let’s face it: I COOK FOR NO MAN!!!”
“Sorry, but was really good.”
Recipe: This, with several modifications.
Chef’s statement: “My competition salad is a riff on coleslaw which includes a dressing made of sesame oil, it didn’t call for sesame oil but because it’s got a mandarin thing specifically with mandarin oranges Idecided to use sesame oil and honey and rice vinegar. Then in addition to the coleslaw and snow peas which the recipe did not call for them to be cooked which is insane, do not serve raw snow peas, scallions and it also has crunched up ramen noodles as well as cranberries and almonds.”
Judges say: “There were at least half a dozen consistencies in there, right? Savory, soupy, crunchy, hard. And none of them overwhelmed another. It all made sense.”
“Everyone loves eating ramen noodles from the bag unless they’re bougie assholes. Rich’s delicious orange-ginger mélange was a bright blend of cranberries and crunchy veggies with the nostalgic taste of the shit I ate when I was most broke.”
“Chinese chicken salads are great for oppressive heat. Oh wait, is this not a Chinese chicken salad? Fooled me with the sesame oil, scallions, uncooked ramen noodles, snap peas, and sesame seeds. In any case, I would surely enjoy this again on a hot and humid day.”
Best Chunk: Rich’s Coleslaw
Most Likely to Eat in the Oppressive Heat: Madeleine’s Israeli Couscous Salad
Most Likely to Make Again: Katie’s C-Town Mac Salad
Honorary Mention: Megan’s Potato Salad, for being the only salad to use an original recipe
Overall Best (1st Place): Ashley’s Potato Salad
Overall Best (3rd Place): Madeleine’s Israeli Couscous Salad & Ellie’s Simple Tuna
Overall Best (2nd Place): Rich’s Coleslaw
Congratulations to the winners, and to you, on your impending stomachache.