Black Pepper and Potato Salad


Black pepper as a fragrance note (Armani Privé Bois d’Encens, Hermès Poivre Samarcande, Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum, by way of example) has a vibrant character — citrusy, resinous and ever so slightly smoky. It is not the rasping sensation of pepper powder, but the warm woody dryness of a dark glossy berry. When cooking, I often crush the peppercorns just to inhale their aroma. Needless to say, from steak coated in pepper to ripe strawberries dusted with sugar and freshly ground spice, black pepper finds its way into numerous dishes. A Spanish inspired potato salad is a dish that allows me to enjoy the perfume of pepper to the fullest.

This potato salad is quite simple, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the proportion of potatoes to eggs should be kept more or less equal, but slightly in favor of the potatoes. Second, the quality of vinegar, olive oil and pepper will determine the final outcome. I generally use sherry vinegar with its fall fruit and cedarwood aromas, but red wine vinegar works well too. Black pepper should be freshly ground in order to derive as much as possible from its beautiful flavor and aroma. Tellicherry peppercorns from India are particularly prized for their large berries and rich, complex scent. Vietnamese black pepper lacks the nuances of Tellicherry, but it possesses a wonderful incense and black tea overtone.

While the potatoes are cooling, slice an onion into slivers lengthwise. Mix the onion with enough vinegar to coat the slivers and add salt and a little bit of sugar. Set it aside to marinate. Peel potatoes and cut them in ½ inch cubes. Peel eggs and cut them in similarly sized pieces. Drain the onions and gently mix with parsley, cubed potatoes and eggs. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and taste. The tartness should be mild, not overly assertive, but you can add more if you prefer more astringency. Since the potatoes have already absorbed some salt from the water, you may not need add much salt. Now, add the olive oil and fresh pepper, tasting to check the balance of flavors. The salad improves upon standing, and I usually make a large amount to eat over the course of a few days. Since cubed tomatoes give off water, I add them only when I am ready to eat, dusting them lightly with pepper before I do so.

Spanish Style Black Pepper and Potato Salad

Serves 4-6

5 medium unpeeled potatoes, boiled in heavily salted water (2-3 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water)
4 boiled eggs
1 small red onion (marinated in 2 T red or sherry vinegar, a pinch of salt and ½ teaspoon sugar for 10-30 min.)
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1 large tomato
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
sherry vinegar (1-2 tablespoons), extra-virgin olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), salt, sugar to taste

Kalustyan’s (123 Lexington Ave, New York) is an Aladdin’s cave for all things fascinating and edible. While I like shopping at the store, ordering online from them has also been great. You can find all kinds of peppers as well as vinegars. World Spice Merchants is another highly reputable site carrying a wide range of spices.

Photo © Bois de Jasmin.



  • Diane: This simple dish is making me weak in the knees. I can practically taste the delicate sweetness of the onions mingling with the refreshing coolness of the tomatoes. Isn’t cooking simply bliss? Thanks for this scrumptious post!

    Also, dear V, you are getting much use out of that scarf, aren’t you? I recognize it from some other photos, therefore I knew this was a photo you had taken even before reading the subtext. 🙂 October 27, 2006 at 1:25am Reply

  • Diane: And like Ina said, what a fantastic store! I have bookmarked it. October 27, 2006 at 1:27am Reply

  • LAIA: Hi. Victoria your receipt is perfect and when I began to read it I was happy to see it´s really a spanish potato salad ( no mayonaise and nice olive oil) but if you want another version of a truly Spanish potato salad just add some black olives and fresh green or red peppers. And you can add some tuna too.
    Cooking is a very sensuous think to do like to put on perfume. It deals with odors and textures and the pleasure you can bring on yourself or on others.
    Hasta pronto or as they say in Barcelona, FINS AVIAT. Cheers. October 27, 2006 at 3:25am Reply

  • Marina: Aahh! It’s almost midnight, it’s BAD to eat that late, but with a post like that what is a girl to do? *salivates* Thank you for the great recipe! October 26, 2006 at 11:48pm Reply

  • Ina: If you’re wondering what’s coming out of my mouth, it’s drool. Gross, I know but this recipe just totally made me salivate profusely. Thank you! I simply can’t wait to make it. Oh, and that online store? What a gem!! October 26, 2006 at 11:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I probably ate most of the salad as I was preparing the platter for its photo shoot. 🙂 It is a super easy recipe, but it is important to use the best quality olive oil and vinegar. They make all the difference. The marinated onion trick comes from my Azeri stepmother–she just serves these onions with meat. I like them in salads–they become sweet and crunchy. October 27, 2006 at 12:08am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, the online store is definitely a gem! Also, I wanted to point out that World Spice Merchant carries kharcho, hmeli-suneli and other Georgian spice mixtures. October 27, 2006 at 12:09am Reply

  • chayaruchama: Thank you, Vika…
    Brings back childhood memories.
    We had every form of potato salad [Russian, German, Spanish, etc.] but “American”, as children.
    Does the store Paprikas- Weiss still exist in New York ?
    In the 70’s, after I moved to Boston, I would order lekvar and paprikas, special meats for Hungarian recipes, from there…
    [What an odd teenager!] October 27, 2006 at 6:36am Reply

  • Judith: Oh, my goodness! Now you are creating lemmings for FOOD!!!! *Salivates with the rest of the group* And I am not only on a no-buy, but on a diet! Still-I am going to pass your amazing-sounding recipe on to DH, who is the cook in the family!:) October 27, 2006 at 8:00am Reply

  • AnnE: I would never have dreamed of eating potato salad for breakfast until just this moment! Thanks for the recipe, V, it sounds delicious. Definitely a keeper. 🙂 October 27, 2006 at 8:41am Reply

  • Erika: That was a cruel trick to play on a pregnant woman! Now I need to waddle into the kitchen and make potato salad – yours looks amazing. I adore the smell of freshly crushed peppercorns – I can never understand using them ready ground. Mind you, the same goes for many great things in life: coffee beans, star anise, nutmeg…. October 27, 2006 at 9:43am Reply

  • newproducts: You had me at the picture. I must make some of that potato salad this weekend. It sounds like a delectable comfort food! October 27, 2006 at 10:25am Reply

  • Robin: Pepper on strawberries, really? October 27, 2006 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Yelena: Wow, this is going to be dinner tomorrow- thank you for sharing the recipe. Potatoes and eggs are a match made in heaven and will be a fabulous change from my usual tortilla. October 27, 2006 at 3:58pm Reply

  • Yelena: Wow, this is going to be dinner tomorrow- thank you for sharing the recipe. Potatoes and eggs are a match made in heaven and will be a fabulous change from my usual tortilla. October 27, 2006 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Yelena: Wow, this is going to be dinner tomorrow- thank you for sharing the recipe. Potatoes and eggs are a match made in heaven and will be a fabulous change from my usual tortilla. October 27, 2006 at 4:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, I should do! It has become the most all-purpose item in my wardrobe–perfect for food styling, wearing on cold evening, using as a decorative piece on the sofa. 🙂 October 27, 2006 at 12:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Diane, you would definitely like the store. It is simply full of treasures, from all types of rice to the variety of spices. October 27, 2006 at 12:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laia, “Cooking is a very sensuous think to do like to put on perfume. It deals with odors and textures and the pleasure you can bring on yourself or on others.” How beautifully put! Thank you. I very much enjoy the process, and of course, sharing food with others makes it even more enjoyable.

    Thank you for the additional suggestions. I have some tuna packed in olive oil, and I shall add it to the base recipe next. October 27, 2006 at 12:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, I have not been there yet, but google gives me this address:
    1504 Second Ave., New York NY 07670-1735

    Sounds like a place to visit next! Thank you very much. October 27, 2006 at 12:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, this is not the worst thing for your waistline, and it makes a great lunch. I also tend to eat it for every meal whenever I make it. I just love potatoes in every shape and form. October 27, 2006 at 12:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ann, thank you. I hope that you will make it and let me know the outcome. Potato salad for breakfast is a fine idea. 🙂 Well, actually I tend to be a very light breakfast eater–a cup of tea or coffee, a piece of toast. October 27, 2006 at 12:46pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Erika, oh, I did not mean to. 🙂 Your comment about coffee beans and star anise made me think of star anise flavoured coffee I made by accident this morning (used the same spice grinder for coffee as I did for anise, without washing it first), and it actually turned out to be excellent. The sweet warmth of anise is a perfect accent to the roasted darkness of coffee. October 27, 2006 at 12:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Newproducts, I am glad I could inspire you to make it. Please let me know how it turns out. I love the taste of black pepper against the potatoes and the olive oil. October 27, 2006 at 12:50pm Reply

  • patchamour: What a beautiful photograph and a great recipe. Can’t wait to try it, as well as the pepper on strawberries. Thank you for sharing.
    Patchamour October 27, 2006 at 6:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, it is an amazing combination–just try a pinch on a sugar dusted berry. October 27, 2006 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Bela: Lovely recipe (shame I can’t have onion otherwise I would definitely make it) and beautiful photo.

    Strawberries lightly sprinkled with pepper are scrumptious. I leave the sugar out. October 27, 2006 at 6:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yelena, I hope that you will let me know how it turns out. I love potatoes, and when paired with eggs and tomatoes, the combination becomes just perfect–a true comfort food in my understanding. October 28, 2006 at 3:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patchamour, thank you! I am trying my hand at photography, and now I am inspired to continue doing more. October 28, 2006 at 3:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, you can also make it without the onions, in which case the taste will be milder. Actually, I often just boil potatoes and dress them in a simple vinaigrette for a quick lunch. I agree with you that the good strawberries make sugar superfluous. Unfortunately, I rarely can find perfectly ripe berries where I live. October 28, 2006 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Madelyn E: Victoria Darling,
    Hello my dear. Your blog can now be called Bois de Jasmin de Gustatory delights 1 What a simple yet tasty creation you’vr offered us ! Your talent is officially limitless. Chemistry to parfums to cuisinr.(spicing etc ). I will love to makr your sweet recipe dear Victoria. Thank you so much for expanding your writing horizons to the pleasures of fine food !
    Perfume is fuel for the psyche…food is comfort to the soul 1 You are both !
    Wishing you all good (scented things)
    Madelyn E October 29, 2006 at 2:49am Reply

  • k-amber: I will try peper on strawberries next time!

    Kaori October 29, 2006 at 4:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, thank you very much for your sweet words! Food is my other passion besides perfume, so it seems fascinating to combine the two, especially since they are already so closely related. October 30, 2006 at 3:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, that is a fantastic combination! October 30, 2006 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Tania: This is going to make a terrific lunch today. 😉 November 5, 2006 at 9:40am Reply

  • koneko: I love Kalustyan’s! Great online store!!
    Thank you for another lovely recipe! Sounds delightful! I am very excited to try this one out! November 6, 2006 at 7:13pm Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Tania, great! I am glad to hear that you decided to make it. November 8, 2006 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: M, isn’t it such a treasure! Glad to share. I hope that you can try it out. November 8, 2006 at 3:17pm Reply

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