Thursday, September 03, 2009


Holy crap, I love this salad. And you know my usual lack of enthusiasm for salads. In particular, I’ve always been an avowed potato-salad hater (detest mayonnaise, don’t care much for mustard, and could never see the point of eating cold potatoes), but for some reason, this summer it’s started to look good to me as I’ve seen it paraded across the food blogs (at least the German-style vinegar-based kinds), and I’ve tried a couple of recipes with decent, if not blogworthy results: one had bacon and was therefore quite palatable, and I’ve been meaning to try it again so I can photograph it and write it up here; the other had pesto and was OK but not something I’m likely to crave again. Both of them had green beans, which I am apparently extra obsessed with this year.

But this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Martha Stewart) is just what I was looking for, even though I didn’t really know I was looking for it. It’s not a potato salad, but rather a normal (i.e., leafy) salad with potatoes in it, yet the dressing is a sly allusion to potato salad—a vinaigrette with a tiny hit of mustard (not enough to scare off this Dijonphobe, though I was suspicious) and a bit of creaminess (mercifully provided by yogurt, not mayonnaise). What really made this salad about as addictive as salads can get was the wonderful interplay between contrasting textures: the leafy arugula, the tender potatoes, the crisp green beans, the crunchy walnuts, and the creamy dressing. I was worried it would be bland, just plain boiled vegetables with greens and walnuts and some dressing, but it was far from it, even though I didn’t bother to buy walnut oil. (So expensive! Such a big bottle!) It tasted so great with plain old olive oil that I’m going to advise you not to bother with the walnut oil unless you already have it in your cupboard or have been waiting for an excuse to buy some.

Other than the olive oil, I didn’t make any changes to the recipe. I made a half-recipe (but a full amount of the dressing, just because it was easier to measure and whisk that way; of course, then I had some left over, which I really should have saved to put over ordinary salad) and split it into two big servings, which we ate for dinner with garlic-butter salmon on the side—and I kid you not, the salad outshone the salmon for me; I actually, for perhaps the first time in my life, wished I could just have two bowls of salad for dinner. I did think the recipe called for slightly too many potatoes—I would venture to say 1 pound might do it—but I’ll let you make that call. I didn’t really measure out my arugula, just pulled enough handfuls out of the bag to fill our bowls and then tossed the other ingredients on top. And I flubbed a bit and put all the salt and pepper in the dressing, rather than saving half to sprinkle over the salad. It didn’t seem to make too much difference.

I can’t wait to make this again. I like that even though it’s perfect for summer—a more vitamin-rich, colorful riff on the old picnic side dish—you could just as easily make this in the winter if you can find decent-quality potatoes and green beans and bagged arugula. Something about walnuts always seems Christmasy to me anyway. But I certainly won’t wait that long…in fact, I might make more this weekend.

1 ounce walnuts (about ⅓ cup)
1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds
6 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
2 tablespoons white wine or other mild vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
3 ounces baby arugula

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, place walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast in oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes (you can do this in a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat, if you prefer). Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop and set aside.

2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a colander to drain and cool. Set aside.

3. Return pan of water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook until tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

4. Whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl; season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Set dressing aside.

5. Arrange arugula, potatoes, and green beans on a platter. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with toasted walnuts; toss to coat.

Serves: 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Low; as with most leafy salads, the arugula will get wilty and slimy if it sits in the dressing for too long.

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