Me and mayonnaise, we don’t mix. Like oil and water, baby. Since I was a little girl, I’ve eaten dijon on my BLTs and sour cream in my dip. I generally steer clear of any two-part food ending in the word salad: tuna, chicken, seafood, egg, macaroni. To be fair, I should disclose that within the last few years, I have let aiolis slip in there. Although, to me, the two are completely different animals. It’s mostly a mental thing, I’m sure, but the thought of the spread being homemade and whisked with healthy olive oil instead of some unknown has helped it squeak past my mayo radar. Also, aioli is made with garlic and is often found chock full of other herbs or spices, too, giving it a flavorful kick that tastes anything like the infamous white stuff in a jar.
Aiolis aside, there is one ‘salad’ that I haven’t given up–perhaps the humblest of them all–potato salad. Growing up, there were always two kinds of potato salad in my house and neither of them incorporated mayo, or at least that’s what I was told. One was made with sour cream and chopped egg–the yolks for my mom, the whites for everyone else since she was allergic–and one made with vinegar, olive oil and parsley. The latter is my favorite version. If you pour the dressing on the potatoes right out of the pot, they will absorb all the wonderful flavors as they cool.
Picnic season is upon us and while you might be tempted, in a pinch, to reach for that yellow-tinged tub behind the deli counter, spare yourself the blah-factor, calories and threat of food poisoning by opting for this zesty recipe, instead. It’s my own version of Nana’s olive oil potato salad. The vinaigrette is full of fresh herbs, shallots, lemon juice and dijon mustard. It tastes fantastic on the baby reds and pencil-thin asparagus I picked up just in time at the local farmer’s market. Peak season for asparagus is coming to an and end so I grabbed what I could from the market’s dwindling supply. Leave the skin on the potatoes, just be sure to give them a proper bath and cook them in plenty of salty water. You can blanch the asparagus first or leave them raw if you prefer. Mine were so thin and delicate I pretty much dunked them in the boiling water and took them right out. I finish the salad with a drizzle of truffle oil, an intoxicating flavor that brings out the natural earthiness of the potatoes. I like to serve it warm next to grilled chicken or fish when serving indoors (honey mustard glazed salmon, last night) but letting the ingredients meld together in the refrigerator overnight does wonders for the flavor (the cold leftovers for breakfast were exceptional!) and is fabulous for an outdoor affair. So skip the mayo on this one; I promise you won’t miss it.
Warm Truffled Potato & Asparagus Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
1 1/2 lbs baby redskin potatoes, boiled and halved
1 medium bunch of asparagus, blanched and chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces (the thinner the stalk the better)
3-4 tsp truffle oil
1/2 of one large lemon, juiced and zested (about 3 tbsp juice)
2 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard, (my fave is Maille’s Rich Country Dijon)
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup of olive oil
fresh cracked pepper and salt, to taste
Make the dressing ahead of time. Combine lemon juice, zest, mustard and herbs, blending well. Stream in olive oil and whisk until fully incorporated. Add shallots, salt and pepper.*
Place well scrubbed potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water. Boil until fork tender but still firm (you don’t want the potatoes falling apart in the dressing). Remove potatoes from pot with slotted spoon and allow to cool for a few minutes. In the meantime, bring water back up to a boil and blanch the asparagus. They should be bright green and still rather crisp. Immediately transfer asparagus to an ice bath to stop them from cooking. Halve the potatoes and chop asparagus into roughly 1 1/2 inch pieces. Combine with vinaigrette. Drizzle truffle oil immediately before serving.
*If serving salad warm, it is best to make the dressing a few hours ahead of time so flavors have time to incorporate. If serving cold, let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.