Monday, June 1, 2009

pesto potato salad with green beans

pesto potato salad

If you think my slaw affliction is bad, let me introduce you to my potato salad habit. There’s that everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version, with its pickles and onions and vinegar and mayo and mustard and celery and then hard-boiled eggs, as if there were a risk of potato salad monotony. Then there’s the stepped-up dilled version, where you start by making your own cucumber pickles the night before and then finish it with radishes. It’s heaven in a Central European bowl. Oh, and now there’s this pesto too, just perfect for the mayo-phobic out there and look, it has green beans! It must be healthy.

green beans, trimmed and tailed
chunked yellow potatoes

This recipe comes courtesy of my green tomato and okra-frying friend Ang, who says it’s her go-to favorite. But what captivated me about it was the play on that Ligurian pasta dish called trofie with potatoes, pesto and green beans that several readers notes when I made a riff on it a couple month ago. I played around with it a little, deconstructing the pesto so the toasted pine nuts became a crunchy garnish and finishing it with wide flakes of parmesan. It was delicious and summery and my only regret was not taking any of the leftovers home so I could eat it today for lunch.

potatoes, beans and pile-o-pesto

One year ago: Molly’s Dry Rubbed Ribs [Rumor has it that Molly waited until we left North Carolina to make these — yesterday, to be exact. We are very upset.]
Two years ago: Zucchini Carpaccio Salad

Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans
Adapted so wildly from this recipe that they’re no longer on speaking terms

Now, I’m going to have to insist that you make your own pesto. Okay, I can’t insist, but I do highly recommend it. Even the best store-bought stuff lacks the flavor wallop of making your own — they may look green, but turn out to be mostly oil — and with basil inching its way towards Greenmarkets, it’s more delicious than ever to make your own. Brightening the flavor with vinegar and a good helping of salt and pepper keep this from bland-dom (a critique of many pesto potato salads), and the green beans provide the perfect antidote to those carb-phobic types.

Serves 10

4 pounds small Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound green beans, cut into one-inch segments
1 to 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
2 bunches of basil (about one ounce each)
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) mild vinegar, such as champagne, white wine or a white balsamic
1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add beans; cook four minutes longer. Drain well and let cool, then transfer potatoes and beans to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, discard the stems from the basil and wash and dry the leaves. Puree them in a food processor with garlic, drizzling in enough olive oil that it gets saucy. Season the pesto with salt and pepper. [Alternately, you can swap this step with one cup of prepared pesto, but seriously, I think you’ll be missing out.]

Toss the beans and potatoes with pesto. Stir in vinegar, green onions, pine nuts and season with salt, pepper and/or additional vinegar to taste. Finally, shave some wide flecks of parmesan over the salad with a vegetable peeler.

Serve immediately, or make this up to two hours in advance. It can be stored at room temperature.


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