I love summertime salads. Great big salads, accented with all sorts of lovely, yummy, seasonal things.
Though I confess, as I sit here eating leftover salad for breakfast, that maybe I am a tad overly fond of the greens. Eh. There are worse things I could do.
So I wanted a salad, and I had a hankering for lemon-caper something. But, I also wanted asparagus and potatoes, because I like to eat those things and I am a simple creature bent on satisfying my wants. Here’s how it all went down.
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1/4 teaspoon of herbes de Provence or tarragon
- 1.5-2 pounds Yukon Gold (OR red OR new) potatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (crushed)
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 2 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
For the dressing
- 2 Tablespoons capers
- 1 Tablespoon shallot (or mild onion), minced
- Juice and zest from one lemon
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/4-1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (OR white wine vinegar OR champagne vinegar)
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- black pepper to taste
- 1/2 (ish) cup olive oil
Salad, prepared however you prefer
A few rounds of thick pita bread, for serving
The hardest ingredient to work with in this recipe is the potatoes because they have to be boiled first. I chose Yukon Golds for this because…well, because I like how they taste, and because I think their waxy texture holds up better to a double-cooking process than floury russet potatoes. Take smallish whole potatoes, or cut them so they are halved and roughly the same size (but do not slice or dice yet). You can peel them if you’d like. I didn’t bother. Boil them until they are fork-tender. They can be a little underdone when you decide to drain them, as they’re going to cook further on the grill. But they should be at the very least, nearly done. Set aside to cool.
While the potatoes are boiling, prep the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends (no knife required! Just bend a stalk and it will naturally break at the spot where tender stalk meets tougher bottom) and put in a mixing bowl. Toss with oil, salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice. I like herbes de Provence, with its mix of herbs and fragrant hint of lavender.
Set these aside, and make your dressing.
Get a big container–a nice big soup bowl with a lid, or a Ball jar that you can close and shake. Spoon capers into a strainer and rinse. Assemble ingredients.
Remember to zest your lemon before you juice it. And the capers are going to get minced, too. Chop everything that needs to be chopped (including parsley, strangely absent from this picture), and dump it all in the mixing container. Add in honey, thyme, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the white balsamic vinegar into the mix. If you want a thicker dressing, add less vinegar. If you’d like it thinner, add a little more. Black pepper goes in now, too, and I use kind of a lot of it in here; using my pepper mill, I probably added ten turns of the grinder. Add according to your taste. But be careful with salt! Even though you’ve rinsed the capers they’ve been pickled in brine and can still be salty. Taste your dressing first before you add any extra salt, and do that at the end, after everything else has been mixed in.
Whisk in oil until it’s fully incorporated. I generally like to have an almost even proportion of oil to vinegar, so if you’ve got a half-cup of vinegar, look to add roughly that much oil. Taste, and adjust. Does it need salt? More pepper? A dash more honey or another hit of mustard? This dressing should be savory and lemony and a little bit sweet, with a refreshing, green bite from the capers. When you’re satisfied, set it aside.
Heat your grill/grill pan. I used the double-griller that stretches across two burners on my stove but of course, this can also go outside. Get it ready to go at a medium/medium-high heat.
Take cooled potatoes and slice them into half-inch (or thicker) slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
When the grill is hot, put the asparagus and potatoes on the burners, then let ’em go. The asparagus will cook much more quickly than the potatoes so don’t wander too far off while they’re cooking. Also, I had to cook in batches for purposes of space. That’s the beauty of salads. If the food gets a little cool…so what?
While the potatoes and asparagus are grilling, make your salad. I had feta cheese so we made sort-of a Greek salad, but really. Make whatever kind of salad you’d like.
Turn the asparagus at least once to ensure even cooking, and if the stalks are thin they should be done in five minutes. Put on a serving platter and drizzle with some lemon-caper vinaigrette.
The potatoes will take a little longer–flip them when you take the asparagus off the grill. They get all texturally fun, though, as the inside stays soft and potato-y while the outside crisps up from the grill. When they’re done, toss with chives et voila! In a serving bowl.
Grill the pita bread.
Really. You’ll thank me for it. You’ll only need like two minutes per side and the flavor gets beautifully deep and surprising. I mean, it’s pita, right? But oh, what an effect the grill has on it.
Cut the pita into quarters when it’s done.
Gather everything together and bring it out onto your fantastic, aesthetically pleasing back porch, which you have just freed from all its winter grime.
This? Is the way to eat a summertime salad. But if you don’t have the back porch, don’t let that stop you! This would taste great if you were seated at a little kitchen table with a single candle burning in the middle for a soft glow, or spread out on a blanket on the floor of your living room while the rain fell outside.
Ha! Now I need to remember to make this again for an indoor picnic.
Whatever, so long as I get to eat it again.
I hope you enjoy!