So many memorable old phrases I enjoy using,
fine writer that I am. One is, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Another might be, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Which must, of course, be followed by, “Opposites attract.” Following those for no reason at all is, “Great minds think alike.” Which is what I say when I make a dish off the top of my head and begin to write the recipe before realizing I cooked the same (or nearly the same) thing 10 (5 or 15) years ago. Thank goodness “Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around,” (a favorite wedding song of mine) and I absolutely don’t mind “reinventing the wheel.” Roll your eyes now or forever hold your peace. Ok, I’m done. But I really did make almost this very same salad in 2014, though its current appearance is quite distinct from the first and today’s recipe title is “Asparagus-Potato Salad” rather than, “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions.” Same difference. Just about.
I had to see. How were they different and how the same? Is my creative cooking process repeating itself? Yes. And no.
What was different?
The cooking method for the potatoes, despite nearly the same outcome, was totally different. In 2014, I roasted the potatoes in the oven on a sheet pan with lots of salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence (still a fave); in 2022, I boiled them with probably even more salt and pepper since much of that seasoning goes down the drain. And let’s face it, what’s a potato without a lot of salt and pepper? I don’t even want to know.
No peppers, chives or chive flowers in the first try (I do adore their stand-out color and consider them an improvement) and no lemon juice in the second (perhaps I’ll reconsider that perky element.)
So the photo from the first go round is below. While not a stellar pic, it looks tasty, doesn’t it? That’s because it was!
What was the same or nearly the same?
I did, however, cook the mushrooms and asparagus the same way–in a skillet together. Might have even been the same skillet — a 10-inch All Clad I bought in 2011 from Cook’s on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota–a great kitchen/cooking class/food store, by the way. Instead of onions, I tossed in some sliced garlic and used fresh scallions in the 2022 finished dish.
The deconstructed vinaigrette (I just made that up, but it’s apropos) method of adding olive oil and acids (red wine vinegar and/or lemon juice) is the same and weird that I’d do it both times (I usually make a vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl or in a cup for composed salads) except for one thing. When you add any seasoning to hot vegetables — particularly but not solely liquids — the seasonings are absorbed more completely and quickly and make for a tastier dish. Latest version has Dijon mustard on board, but since I can and do eat it on a spoon straight out of the jar (must be the salt), I’m not surprised.
I buy my Maille mustard in a six-pack online so I never run out. I keep both the regular version and the whole grain all the time, as well as other styles on occasion.
How’d I serve it now and then?
In 2022, the salad went on a big showy platter garnished within an inch of its life with a bed of baby spinach underneath for health and beauty both. We ate it with a Traeger-smoked whole chicken my finest griller husband cooked and some baguette from the local and loved bakery Nightingale Bread. Our first outdoor meal of the year.
In 2014, the older salad accompanied a lovely slew of hamburgers we were sharing with our kids, I’m guessing, since they were living with us at the time. Did we eat outside? First week of March in Colorado? Probably not. We were lucky it was nice enough to grill.
An odd similarity is that for both occasions, we saw a huge change in the weather that jumped back from spring into winter overnight. This is typical Rocky Mountain springtime behavior. Here’s March 7, 2014:
And below is this week–do remember we’re talking the week before Memorial Day this time. We’re thrilled. Laughing. Smiling all around. Yes, we so needed the moisture. We might even have some grass this year!!
So I’m thinking instead of the rain (or snow) dance, I from now on only need to try to invent a new potato salad using asparagus to encourage an opening up of the skies–what do you think? If you need rain (or snow) or simply a luscious side for your Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or 4th of July cookout, try this or even the first version if you’d rather roast the potatoes in the oven:
- 1- pound new baby potatoes cut in half or quarters if 2-inches or more
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
- Crushed red pepper
- 3/4 – pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 8- ounces button or other mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half or into quarters if very large
- 2 large plump cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into medium dice
- 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced thinly at an angle (white and green parts)
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup minced chives for garnish
- Chive flowers for garnish, if available
- BOIL THE POTATOES/SEASON THEM WHILE HOT: Add the potatoes along with a tablespoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of ground black pepper to a large saucepan and cover with water plus an inch or two. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, reduce to simmer for 10 -12 minutes or until barely tender. Drain. Tip the warm potatoes back into the still warm pot and, off the heat, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Stir in the Dijon-style mustard. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- SAUTÉ THE ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS: In the meantime, heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper and heat 30 seconds or so. Tip in the asparagus and mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender, adding garlic slices for the last minute or so. Remove from heat.
- STIR THE ASPARAGUS MIXTURE, RED PEPPERS, AND SCALLIONS INTO THE POTATOES: Add the cooked asparagus mixture along with the chopped red peppers and scallions to the potatoes in the pot and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings, including olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- ARRANGE THE POTATO SALAD ON A BED OF THE SPINACH AND GARNISH: To a large platter or shallow serving bowl, add the spinach evenly and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Spoon the potato salad into the center of the spinach leaves. Grind a little black pepper over the entire dish and garnish with chives and chive flowers, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.Store, well-covered, in the fridge for 3-4 days. You may want to add more olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper and/or let the salad come to room temperature before serving.
Change it up: Use half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes. Grill the potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms instead of boiling and sautéing. Add a few toasted chopped nuts or sliced olives or capers. To increase the protein, mix in diced cooked chicken, minced hard cooked eggs, ham, or chopped fried bacon. No chives? Try parsley or basil. As noted in the recipe headnote, swap in other cooked green veggies like green beans or zucchini for the asparagus. They needn’t even be green. One secret to salad is this: whatever vegetables you throw in there will probably be more than edible and quite delicious. If you’ve read the blog long, you’ll know I like a mix of fresh and cooked vegetables for texture and color interest. “Take” my salad class from 2020.
Cutting Food Costs (see my graphic above right): S for making a salad. A for always planning a menu and making a shopping list — if you did. V for focus on value. This dish is healthy and if you’re a small family or couple, you will have leftovers. E for every week have a veggie meal (if you used this as a main dish) and skip a takeout/restaurant meal–which I hope you did. Eating at home for health, wealth, and happiness is always a good thing. The baby potatoes themselves are cheaper at warehouse stores in larger quantities, as are bell peppers and mushrooms–if you’ll use that many. Consider sharing with a friend or neighbor to cut costs. Use coupons if you have them.
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LIFE GOES ON:
Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen; I’m grateful!