asparagus and red potato salad

We like asparagus a lot. Of course it wasn't always that way. dr bob doesn't remember ever eating it as a kid. Fresh or frozen. In fact it was way into adulthood that he became vaguely aware of this usually overpriced vegetable that people apparently just had to have in season. Eventually he started having it too. There wasn't anything immediately grabbing about it. But as time passed, it became more and more valued. He began reading various ways of preparing the stuff. He bought one of those tall narrow pots that aren't good for anything else but asparagus. Without any clear moment of revelation, dr bob found himself among(st) the converted—a full fledged member of the asparagus lovers society.

dr bob also compulsively collects recipes. Cookbooks, cooking magazines, women and fashion magazine articles, and newspaper FOOD sections. Any category alone represents an information overload, but noncookbook categories have a sort of natural window of opportunity for overloading, so that any particularly interesting item, even if tagged in some way, gets lost in the growing stockpile of paper-based media on which it comes. This particular asparagus recipe got clipped from the paper and entered its temporary still-lying-around-in-plain-sight period before being committed to the archives. Amazingly enough the right combination of circumstances involving a surprise Sunday afternoon visit by a brother-in-law gave us the excuse to try it out and we all loved it. Enough to tell other people about it. So here's how it goes.

ingredients

1 1/2 t garlic, minced
2 1/4 t Dijon mustard
6 T balsamic vinegar
salt
1 c (-1T) extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs small red potatoes (about 2in diameter) cleaned but not peeled
2 lbs fresh asparagus
1/2 c chopped scallions, including 2in green stems
black pepper, freshly ground
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves washed and dried Boston lettuce? What is it? We skipped it the first time, but used 3 red leaf lettuce leaves the 2nd time, finely chopped.
1 head radicchio, leaves washed and dried We chopped it the first time, forgot it the 2nd time.
1/4 c chopped parsley or chives or combination We forgot this the first time, replaced it with 1/2 c chopped green of leak, sprinkling of freeze dried chives.

instructions

  1. Place garlic, mustard, vinegar, and 3/4 t salt in a nonaluminum bowl and whisk well. Gradually whisk in olive oil. (Dressing can be made 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated, but really, how much time would that save?)
  2. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil and add potatoes and 1 T salt. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Cut potatoes into quarters, then halve the quarters.
  3. Cut and discard tough ends from asparagus stalks. With vegetable peeler, peel stalks, starting just below the tips. Cut stalks on diagonal into 2 in pieces. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil and add 2 t salt and asparagus. Boil until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in colander and refresh under cold running water. Pat dry. (Both potatoes and asparagus can be prepared several hours ahead, covered loosely with plastic wrap and left at room temperature.)
  4. When ready to serve, toss potatoes, asparagus and scallions in bowl. Heat dressing over medium heat until hot. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange border of alternating lettuce and radicchio leaves on serving plate. Mound salad on leaves and sprinkle with parsley. Makes 8 servings. [We just served it all mixed up.]

notes

  1. We had something similar to this at the Philadelphia Restaurant School, which added inspiration to try it. We had a couple great meals there years ago, but seem to have too much inertia to return. Must make a note about that.
  2. THE ARUGULA MAKEOVER.
    Ten years later we are cutting down on carbs to help ani lose a few pounds. We see a piece on the South Beach Diet and the cardiologist who wrote the book and he actually sounds sensible and honest. The next day bob is thinking a salad with chunks of potato (not a lot, low carb remember?) and veggies, and some tuna on the grill pan, rare inside. Trader Joe's provides us with the small red potato chunks and garlic all ready to go (intended product use: garlic mashed potatoes) and since they have to be cooked, the hot potato salad idea naturally emerges, so we consult this recipe for ingredients on hand. Oops, that last bit of green onion gone. Only 3 leftover asparagus stalks and a half jar of baby asparagus (ready-for-use). We'd also grabbed a bag of triple washed baby arugula at Trader Joe's (how do they guess what we want so well?) to replace the greens, since we have been on an arugula trip lately. We start with a handful, tossed into our newly acquired inverted flat topped square pyramid shaped Crate and Barrel salad dish. And by now we have high end balsamic vinegar on hand for the dressing: we settle on about a third of the dressing ingredient amounts since this is only for the two of us, whisked together in our brand new 1 quart stainless All Clad saucier waiting to be heated. Only whole grained Dijon mustard is available and turns out to be an improvement. We throw in a medium tomato, chopped, into the salad bowl that is. Then the chopped remnant asparagus. Ani cuts up a few fresh white mushrooms, into the mix they go. A handful of baby French string beans get steamed. The potatoes are done, heat turned off. Ready to do the tuna, salt and pepper, olive oil, ani takes care of that end. Meanwhile we heat the dressing. Dump in the drained warm potatoes, then the crisp green beans chopped into inch long pieces. The chopped tomato. Then the heated dressing. Grind a little fresh pepper into it. We toss until evenly distributed. The tuna is done. We thinly slice it and serve. Yes. A keeper. [A real chef would have wiped down the sides of the salad bowl, the balsamic vinegar dressing looks quite messy, eh?]
  3. Maybe we should write ourselves a big note on the fridge to try to return to the Restaurant School this next decade since we never made it back this past one either.

update 2009

On our summer Rome exit food shopping spree this year (six years later), we picked up a new product that seems to be spreading in the Italian supermarket scene: flavored balsamic glaze. We got the truffle flavor. Back at home we needed some trial recipe to include it in, and some leftover cooked asparagus in the fridge brought this old recipe to mind. We just needed some potatoes. Unfortunately we did not consult the recipe before hitting the supermarket, so we neglected to buy fresh parsley that we would have added if only we had planned ahead. We decided against the lettuce even though we had some on hand. The balsamic glaze we tested on a piece of bread first to assess its strength. Pretty sweet, so we were very sparing in using it. Seems like we struck just the right balance.

ingredients

dressing:  
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 t Dijon mustard
1 t truffle flavored balsamic glaze Be careful here, taste test.
salt
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
veggies plus:  
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes cleaned but not peeled
3/4 lb fresh asparagus
1 chopped scallion, including green stem  This was all we had left in the fridge. But don't overdo this...maybe a few more.
black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 c chopped parsley or chives or combination We forgot to buy this so we included a bit of chopped fresh basil instead.

instructions

  1. Prepare fresh asparagus like you always do. Cool and chop into 3/4 inch pieces. This can be done ahead of time or even incorporated warm.
  2. Wash the potatoes and boil whole for some 20 minutes until cooked but still firm. Then peel if you like and then cut into small bite-sized cubes (warm ones).
  3. Meanwhile put the dressing stuff in the small plastic chopper attachment to a hand blender and blend until smooth. Taste test it to see if it could improve by adding more of some ingredient.
  4. Clean and chop finely the scallion(s).
  5. Repeat for the fresh parsley, if you have any.
  6. When the potatoes are ready, put all the ingredients into a large bowl with some fresh pepper and gently coat evenly the veggies with the dressing.
  7. Serve.

notes

  1. The front side tri-lingual label from Collitali (the fashion food factory) said:
    Glassa Gourmet a base di aceto balsamico di Modena al tartufo,
    Gourmet Glaze based of balsamic vinegar of Modena with truffle,
    Creme Gourmet, a base de vinaigre balsamique de Modene a la truffe.
    Product of Italy: http://www.collinatoscana.it. [La Collina Toscana is the company name.]
    The back side had the ingredients listed in 4 languages including German and a little tag: "the Italian ketchup."
  2. Finally a high resolution photo, more megapixels as the century progresses.
asprpsld.htm: 10-oct-2009 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]