There is a part of the Adriatic seaside where grilled squid are as common as seashells, baby red snapper appear crisped by the plateful and octopus tentacles make knots on every table. From Croatia down through Montenegro and into northern Albania, the seafood is generally the same - shrimp, cephalopod, grilled fish; all very simple, all served with not much more than a slice of lemon and a pile of blitva.
put it on a plate with cous-cous stuffed squid, standing around a barbecue with some family and drinking lots of strong liquor. That time, we cooked carrot and red onion in with the standard chard and potatoes.
By rights, this latest version shouldn't be called blitva at all, because the name actually means "chard," which there is none of here. Calling a potato salad by another name is fine, but calling something chard when it's not… well, it's a liberal definition.
Here are our deviations: lime (juiced), celery root (chopped and raw), red onion and - the biggest transgretion - fresh basil instead of chard. None of it was cooked, except for the little boiling potatoes, and we also mixed and served the ingredients cold, so that they'd stay fresher-tasting and snappier. The onion and celeriac add a little texture and crunch, the basil adds flavor and greenery, the lime gives it a very bright note - what a success!
As it stood, the easy play between starch, lime, garlic and basil was enough for our plates, and was cool comfort beside our fried fish and sea breeze.
For the dressing, use three ripe limes (the brighter green a lime is, the more un-ripe it is, some yellow is a good thing), olive oil and salt, plus whatever spices or other flavors you're going to add. We mixed the garlic and chopped onion in with the oil so it would incorporate better, but otherwise kept it simple.
After Beach Blitva or Lime Basil Potato Salad
- 1 1/2 lbs. small, boiling potatoes, well-scrubbed and cubed.
- 1 celery root, peeled and roughly matchsticked
- 1 medium-sized red onion
- 3 cups fresh basil
- 3 ripe limes
- 3/4 cups olive oil
- 2 or 3 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced
- Clean the potatoes, cut into one inch (really, about 3/4 inch) cubes, boil in salted water until tender. Drain and let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix together oil, juice from all limes, garlic, onion and some more salt.
- Add potatoes, basil and celery root, mix all ingredients well.
- Serve cool alongside simple fish, cephalopod or crustacean.
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