Warmer weather means outdoor gatherings are officially a go, and with picnics and backyard barbecues come tasty cookout food.

While grilled meats and veggies are the stars of the show, we’d be remiss to think they can handle the spotlight all on their own. Side dishes truly make the meal, and possibilities are endless when crafting the perfect side for your barbecue entrée. Let Local Flavor and Kristen Wallo’s Potato Salad make it an easy decision for you.

Wallo, fundraising and programming librarian for Valley Community Library in Peckville, came upon the recipe during the Cookbook Club, a beloved program at the Midvalley branch of the Lackawanna County Library System that began a few years ago.

“We met once a month and tried different recipes from different cookbooks,” Wallo said, adding that the club, like most in-person programs, ceased during the coronavirus pandemic and hasn’t restarted. “Everyone loved it — I loved it. It was by far my most popular adult program.”

The potato salad recipe — which earned the library a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore — easily became a hit with friends and family as well as with the club. It’s also pretty simple to make, Wallo said. She adapted the original recipe to suit her taste and advised cooks to do the same. She made it a little bit sweeter with a sweet pickle relish, though cooks can use a dill variety to give it a different flavor. She also advised those making the dish to place the potatoes in cold water and then bring them to a boil to allow them to cook more evenly.

Wallo picked up many of these tips and tricks through the Cookbook Club.

“Before (Cookbook Club), I wasn’t really into cooking,” she said with a laugh. “Now, it’s a hobby for me and something I’m really having fun with. … Everyone is really missing it, and we can’t wait to get back to it.”

Valley Community Library has still served the area during the past year. It opened so patrons could browse for books or use the internet, even extending its internet to the parking lot for social distancing and to help families with homeschooling. And it hosted virtual events that involved activities such as take-home crafts and notebooks with prompts for teens to practice journaling and mindfulness. It also facilitated Zoom book clubs, including a graphic novel book club for teens and two adult clubs.

Also virtual this year is Books Apetit, the library’s biggest fundraiser of the year. In the past, the event included wine tastings, food from dozens of local restaurants, a live cooking demo with a chef from a local restaurant, an open bar, raffle baskets and prizes. While last year’s event was canceled, the library adapted its format this year to a virtual raffle featuring dozens of baskets from local vendors as well as one with special raffle items. The cost is $1 for three tickets and $5 for 18 tickets for regular raffle items and cq$5 per ticket for two special raffles: one for a $500 gift card to Lowe’s and another for a $250 gift card to Price Chopper.

Residents can head to the library during its normal hours to take a chance on the baskets up until the library closes at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 29. That night, the winners will be announced during a live drawing on the library’s Facebook page.

Wallo hopes the event can resume its normal format next year, but a virtual raffle is a great way to support the library in the meantime.

“Anything we can do that gives back to the community when they support us is a good thing,” she said. “(Fundraising) helps keep the library open.”


Kristen Wallo’s Potato Salad
  • 6 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Paprika, for garnish

Cube potatoes and add enough cold water to cover them. Place over high heat. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Drain and let potatoes cool.

In a large bowl, stir together potatoes, celery, onions, eggs, relish, mayo, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with a sprinkle of paprika, then cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.