Potato salad with kale pesto is a fresh new approach to the summer side dish. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Potato salad with kale pesto is a fresh new approach to the summer side dish. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Kale pesto makes for a more healthful potato salad

This version of the summer classic parts ways with a mayonnaise-based dressing.

If you think eating more healthfully means 86-ing potato salad from your summer menu, I have good news — and after that, I have even better news.

First, the good news: Potatoes are better for you than you might realize. A medium spud brings more potassium to the table than a medium banana and more vitamin C than a medium tomato, plus a respectable amount of fiber, vitamin B6 and iron. It’s true that potatoes tend to have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a spike in blood sugar. But that is tempered when eaten in the context of a meal that contains protein and fat; interestingly, once potatoes have cooled after cooking (as they are for a salad), their glycemic index drops to a moderate level — more along the lines of that of a whole grain — because some of the starch in the potato changes to a type called “resistant starch.”

Now for the even better news: The accompanying recipe ups the ante on both the health and flavor fronts, for a potato salad that could hold its own on any superfood list. In it, new red potatoes, which are cooked and cooled skin-on for rustic texture, color and nutrition, are tossed with crisp, sweet bell peppers and dressed with an emerald-green, lemony kale pesto. It coats the potatoes luxuriously in a much more healthful, but still crowd-pleasing, way than with a mayonnaise-based dressing.

While a hint of kale flavor comes through, it is not polarizing — as the leafy green can sometimes be — because its taste is balanced by the sweet, floral notes of the basil leaves and brightened with lemon juice. The result is a fresh new approach to potato salad that gives you every reason to say yes.

Potato salad with kale pesto

The potatoes need to be cooked and cooled at least 2 hours in advance; they can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

1½ pounds small new red potatoes, scrubbed (skins on)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 small clove garlic

1 cup packed kale leaves

½ cup packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped

Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot and add enough cool water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife or skewer but still have some resistance. (They will continue to cook as they cool.) Drain, and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown, shaking the pan frequently to avoid scorching.

Combine the pine nuts and garlic in a mini food processor; pulse until evenly minced. Add the kale, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper; process until evenly minced. With the motor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube; process to form a well-blended pesto. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Cut the cooled potatoes into quarters; add to the mixing bowl, along with the yellow and red peppers. Toss to coat evenly before serving.

Makes 8 servings. Nutrition per serving: 120 calories, 3 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 80 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, no sugar.

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