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Light Potato Salad Perfected

Five variations on a theme for the must-have side dish at summer get-togethers.

At virtually any summertime gathering, potato salad is there. But what constitutes "potato salad" is open to interpretation. About the only thing most of the recipes share is potatoes. From that point, all bets are off.

See More: Learn how our Food Editor lightened potato salad.

The blue-ribbon recipe of the National Potato Board, for example, is a simple affair of potatoes, red onions, and tomatoes blended with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, paprika, and cumin. At potlucks and Sunday suppers all across the South, mayonnaise and mustard provide the background for peeled potatoes tossed with crunchy chopped celery and sweet pickle relish. Meanwhile, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, potato salad has a German influence -- it's made with oil and tart vinegar, topped with crumbled bacon, and served piping hot.

America's favorite side dish also has numerous gourmet interpretations. Elizabeth Terry, James Beard award winner and doyenne of new Southern cuisine, mixes savory spinach, basil, and mint pesto with shallots, grapes, and raspberries in a salad that blends sliced new potatoes with cubed sweet potatoes. "So restorative on a hot Georgia day," she quips in Savoring Savannah: Feasts from the Low Country. Mollie Katzen, author of the vegetarian classic Moosewood Cookbook, adds toasted cashews and sunflower seeds to her "kitchen-sink type" potato salad, which also includes bell pepper, cucumber, and the tang of tarragon.

Clearly, potato salad has many personalities. Here we've created recipes designed to mirror our multifaceted subject. From classic to exotic, down-home to uptown, you're bound to find one that suits your fancy.