I think that if we’re going to continue to be grand old friends, you’re going to have to admit that you at least occasionally wish you could have potato salad for lunch any day of the week. That you think it’s kind of lame that potato salad is relegated to backyard barbecue indulgence; packed up in Tupperware, saved for 3-day weekends, eaten with apology to the swimsuit you’ll wear the next day. If nothing else you might admit this so that I can feel my habits are less cuckoo. You’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?
And of course, I’ve been craving potato salad like a madwoman for the last week and who can blame me? Summer Is Coming* and picnic season is nigh. But given my need to not groan any further when bathing suits are required, I wanted to swap the standard mayo-assaulted potato salad for something with different proportions — a salad with potatoes, rather than a straight-up potato salad. I let the market dictate what to fill the salad out with — this week in New York is all about asparagus, sugar snaps, radishes and spring onions, and so is this salad, but in another month, I think it would be equally welcome with some cucumbers and green beans.
But then, of course, I had to pickle something. I apologize to any of you with pickle fatigue but I’ve realized that I need at least one ingredient in every salad these days pickled. It’s an obsession, and apparently, it starts young in our family. This time, the bulbs of the spring onions took a vinegar bath, and they come out all the more punchy for it. (Lushes.) The greens add a kicky garnish. Together with a coarse Dijon vinaigrette, this is about as far from a squidgy monotonous potato salad as you can get, and I think that could be welcome anywhere, not just cookouts. Really, I think it wants to come home with you.
* Who else is obsessed so much with Game of Thrones that they’re now galloping through the five books so they can think about it all of the other days of the week it’s not on? Anyone?
One year ago: Scrambled Egg Toast, Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys and Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Two years ago: Strawberry Shortcakes, Grilled Shrimp Cocktail and Graham Crackers
Three years ago: Haricot Vet with Shallots and Molly’s Dry-Rubbed Ribs
Four years ago: Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble and Zucchini Carpaccio Salad
Salad with New Potatoes and Pickled Spring Onions
I realized as I was editing photos for this post that they reminded me of something else, and that I’d likely been inadvertently influenced by Heidi Swanson’s Mostly-Not-Potato Salad from her incredible book, Super Natural Everyday. Great minds think alike! Heidi’s version is a bit different, including tofu, celery, cucumber, green beans, chive and dill, but I love that it also gives a the classic potato salad a makeover, and reprioritizing. I could imagine delighting in them both all summer.
2 pounds small new or fingerling potatoes (I used a mix of reds and yukon golds)
1 pound asparagus
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, green beans or other spring pea
4 small-to-medium radishes, thinly sliced
Pickled spring onions
3 spring onions (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt (I use Diamond brand; use less if you’re using Morton or table salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Sharp mustard vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard (both Roland and Maille make a whole seed one I’m tremendously fond of)
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the tip of a knife easily pierces through a potato. 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.
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 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.
Refill the saucepan you used for the potatoes (here’s to fewer dishes!) with salted water and bring it to a boil. Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl with ice and water in it. Trim the tough ends off the asparagus. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus. One minute later, add the sugar snap peas. Two minutes later, drain both together then dump them in the ice bath until chilled. Drain the vegetables and spread them out on towel to absorb excess water.
Slice the cooked asparagus spears and sugar snaps into 1/2-inch segments and place them in a large bowl. Chop potatoes into moderate-sized chunks and add them to the bowl. Cut the radishes as thinly as possible, with a mandoline if you have one. If they’re especially big (mine were), you can first quarter them lengthwise. Cut some of the reserved onion greens into thin slivers (no need to use all of them, as the onion flavor might take over) and add them to the bowl.
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. (You may find you don’t want to use all of it.) Stir in as many pickled onion coins as you please, save the rest for anything and everything. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Eat and enjoy!.
Do ahead: Pickles can be started in the day or days before. Potatoes can be boiled and chilled in fridge overnight, as can other vegetables. Vinaigrette can be made in advance as well, but I might wait until the last minute to toss it with the vegetables as the vinegar, over a long sitting time, can ever-so-slightly discolor the cut edges of the asparagus and beans.