LOS ANGELES — A red, white and blue potato salad for the Fourth of July. What makes it different is Middle Eastern seasoning. This recipe is from the late Barbara Hansen, the longtime Los Angeles Times food and wine writer, food blogger and cookbook author who died at the age of 90 on January 28, 2023.
One of the first food writers to bring attention to international cuisines in Los Angeles through her work at the Los Angeles Times, Barbara contributed to many publications, including Bon Appetit, Daily Dish, Saveur, LA Weekly and the Cook’s Cook. She was a James Beard Award winner in the wine and spirits category for an article on Mezcal in Oaxaca. Her six best-selling books include: Mexican Cookery; Southeast Asian Cooking: Menus and Recipes From Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines; Cooking California Style; Good Bread, and a revised edition of the Southeast Asian cookbook with new format and new recipes. “She created the Border Line food column at the Los Angeles Times beginning in 1974 … chronicling LA’s Mexican food scene, including the newspaper’s first recipe to be printed in Spanish. But even before Border Line, Barbara was a champion for the city’s international flavors. In the single year of 1969 she wrote about Israeli consul dinners, kosher caterers, L.A. soul food and the cuisines of Egypt, Haiti, the Philippines, Colombia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Honduras, all with recipes.” Barbara was an avid world traveler and considered an authority on Indian and Mexican food.
Her love of many delicious new flavors led her to explore LA’s varied international cuisines. After California Cooking Style, she wrote a cookbook called Mexican Cookery followed by Taste of Southeast Asia. In 2013 she wrote a Korean restaurant guide for Los Angeles, commissioned by the Korean Food Foundation in Seoul. Barbara inspired the main protagonist Joan Bergstrom in Kim Fay’s 2022 novel Love & Saffron, a character who discovered herself in 1960s Los Angeles. Barbara Hansen excelled in documenting LA’s hidden cuisines and newly arrived cultures with fierce curiosity.
“Tired of the same old potato salad? It’s time to try something new, like skipping the usual creamy dressing (and all that fat!) and dressing up the potatoes with Middle Eastern flavors. Then you’ll have a salad that’s all bright greenery, light and fresh. Borrowing from two popular Middle Eastern salads, fattoush and tabbouleh, this recipe incorporates generous handfuls of parsley and mint along with colorful vegetables. Instead of the fried pita used in fattoush and the bulgur wheat basic to tabbouleh, it is based on potatoes,” wrote Barbara.
“I left the potatoes unpeeled in order to heighten the contrast and added more color with roasted red bell pepper, baby heirloom tomatoes, green onions and a mini cucumber. The dressing incorporates olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, za’atar, harissa and cumin, and I added honey to offset the tanginess. You can substitute any hot pepper for harissa or leave it out. And you can omit the za’atar, although it has become trendy enough to be widely available,” she said. “This salad is good served for any occasion, picnic, or holiday celebration throughout the year.”