Chef Aaron shares more family picnic favorites – Mustardy Roasted Potato Salad and Classic Vinegared Cucumber Dill Salad.

When my great-grandparents, steeped in the European tradition of using public spaces to their fullest, took my mother to “Kaspenten Park” as a child, she never connected that it had any other name, like, say, “Cass Benton Park.” 

Chef Aaron Egan
Chef Aaron Egan

Unbeknownst to her, my mother began participating in a larger continuum of summer activities that, the world over, are somewhat alike. We search for places with a good breeze and a nice shady tree, with a waterfront view or a creek-side meadow, and we pack ourselves a picnic basket full of foods designed to last for the hike out. The Detroit waterfront is dotted with parks that provide plenty of space to spread out, to grill and to relax with your friends and loved ones, and so, too, are the lakes and parks of Metro Detroit.

Public spaces are often underutilized, but as we move into a world of increasing temperatures, we won’t always be able to air-condition our way out of the stifling temperatures. Better to understand how we beat the heat before everyone had climate control at their fingertips. A lot of that involves getting out into the open air at the right times of day and finding a shady spot to enjoy a breeze.

Mustardy Roasted Potato Salad


  • 2 lbs. waxy potatoes (white, red, gold, etc., just not Russet potatoes), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2-4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 2 tsp. paprika, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, grated over a strainer to retain juice
  • 3 Tbsp. mustard powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. whole mustard seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • ¼ cup prepared mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. sour cream
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat your oven to 425°F, and grab a sheet pan or two (if needed to hold the potatoes.) Line the sheet pan with parchment paper, if you have it.

2. Place the diced potatoes in a large bowl and add 2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil. Toss to coat, then season with salt, pepper, marjoram, paprika and thyme. Add additional oil, if needed, to coat evenly. Toss well to spread the seasonings evenly across the potatoes, then pour them out onto the sheet tray in a single flat layer. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and keep roasting in 10-minute increments until the potatoes are cooked through and browning slightly on the edges. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. 

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mustard powder, turmeric and cold water. Mix well with a fork to combine and then set aside. In a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes, combine the crushed mustard seeds, mayonnaise, sour cream and ½ cup of grated onion (varying this amount to your taste.) Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Check on your potatoes; they’re still roasting, probably.

4. Once the potatoes have cooled, add the mustard mix to the mayonnaise mix, and stir until they two are evenly mixed. Add some onion juice as needed to thin the dressing out slightly. Add the potatoes to the bowl and stir well to combine everything and coat them evenly. If you find that there’s not enough dressing to coat, you can add a bit more mayonnaise or more onion juice or both. The goal is to have a nice, creamy result, but keep a nice roasted potato flavor and texture still discernible.

5. Tidy up your bowl of potato salad and dust the top with a good sprinkling of paprika. Pack up and keep cool until it’s time to eat!

Classic Vinegared Cucumber Dill Salad


  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • ½ Tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2-4 Tbsp. water


1. Slicing the cucumbers and onions can best be accomplished with a mandoline slicer set to ⅛-inch thickness. Be careful when using this tool, and use the guard provided to hold produce, when needed. 

2. Combine the onions and cucumbers in a bowl, and season with the salt. Toss to combine and set aside in a cool place for 10 minutes.

3. Pour off the liquid that has accumulated from the cucumbers, and add the sugar, vinegar, water and dill. Start with just about half of the water and see if there’s enough liquid to cover the salad. Add more water as needed. Mix well to combine and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine fully. Serve with your picnic or your favorite bagels and schmears. 

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