Wednesday, June 15, 2011
SPRING POTATO SALAD
I toyed with a few (non-mayonnaise) potato salad recipes over the last couple of summers, but aside from this one (which, at least the way I make it, is more of a leafy green salad with potatoes in it), never settled on one I could wholeheartedly embrace. Part of the problem, I think, was that I had not yet evolved into the mustard fiend I now seem to have become. To keep a potato salad from being bland, you need a big, bold dressing, and mustard can be very kind to potatoes. Another issue is the other vegetables involved; I don’t adore potatoes enough to consider them "salad" in their own right, and some veggies complement them better than others. Several of the non-winning recipes used tomatoes and peppers, which didn’t do it for me. My favorite pairings with potatoes are green: asparagus and green beans. And of course, I have a recent interest in radishes, so when I saw Smitten Kitchen's gorgeous spring potato salad featuring all those elements, plus another one of my growing obsessions, pickled vegetables, the deal was sealed.
This salad rocks. It’s wholesome, delectable, and beautiful. The mustard-laden vinaigrette packs a wonderful punch, and the sweet-sour pickled onions are the coup de gras. As I learned from an earlier Smitten Kitchen recipe, a quick soak in sugared and salted vinegar takes just the right amount of bite out of raw onions to keep them from overwhelming the rest of a salad (and you from reeking for the rest of the evening), as well as adding a delicious zip, and this particular version, made with delicate spring onions, is so mild you can snack on them straight. And you will probably have leftovers (although after eating the salad, I decided I could have put in more of the onions), so you can do just that—or try adding them to sandwiches, grilled meat, or other salads later in the week.
We devoured big bowls of this as a main dish for dinner, with small grilled chicken thighs on the side, and then again for lunch the next day, and I’ll probably make it again next week. I’m sure you could mess around with the vegetable ingredients however you wanted (I substituted green beans for the peas Deb used, because A hates peas and the potato-green bean combo is so good, and tweaked the ingredient proportions slightly based on availability—a bit less potato, a few more green beans), but this version is perfect for me. Good thing summer weather has been slow to arrive in Southern California, because I could happily eat this springy salad all year long.
1¾ pounds small new or fingerling potatoes in assorted colors
1 pound asparagus
½ pound green beans
4 medium radishes, thinly sliced
Pickled spring onions:
3 spring onions (about 6 ounces)
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
Sharp mustard vinaigrette:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, or you can easily pierces a potato with the tip of a knife. Drain the potatoes and let them cool until they’re almost room temperature. You can hasten this by covering them with cold water, and replacing the water a few times as it warms up.
2. Meanwhile, pickle your spring onions. Whisk vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together in the bottom of a small container with a lid until the salt and sugar dissolve. Slice the onion bulbs and paler green parts into very thin coins and submerge them in the vinegar mixture. Cover and put in fridge until you’re ready to use them; if you can put them aside for an hour or even overnight, even better. Reserve the onion greens.
3. Refill the saucepan you used for the potatoes with salted water and bring it to a boil. Trim the tough ends off the asparagus and slice the ends off the green beans; cut both vegetables into ½-inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus and the green beans. Two minutes later or when vegetables are crisp-tender, drain them, rinse them under cold water until cool, drain again, and spread them out on towel to absorb excess water.
4. Place the asparagus, green beans, and sliced radishes in a large bowl. Chop potatoes into moderate-sized chunks and add them to the bowl. Cut some of the reserved onion greens into thin slivers (no need to use all of them) and add them to the bowl.
5. When you’re ready to serve the salad, or an hour or two in advance, whisk the dressing ingredients and toss it with the vegetables, to taste. Stir in as many pickled onion coins as you please. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: OK. The salad was still very tasty the next day, but the acid in the vinaigrette had discolored the asparagus and green beans somewhat. If you want to make this ahead, it would probably be better to chill all the vegetables separately in the fridge overnight and wait until the last minute to combine them and add the dressing.