“Salad days” is an idiomatic expression, referring to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. More modern use, especially in the United States, refers to a person’s heyday when somebody was at the peak of his/her abilities—not necessarily in that person’s youth. ~Wikipedia
Hmmm. I think somehow the term applies to this post.
For instance, it is Spring here in the northern hemisphere—as I’ve now gone on about ad nauseam—a youthful and innocent time for plants in the garden which are inexperienced in protecting themselves against insects and rabbits, not to mention very large cats who view direct-seeded spots in the garden as litter box potential…ewwwwww! And what’s more, it’s also the heyday of certain veggies like the noble asparagus, at the peak of its taste and ability to inspire new dishes.
Yep, it works for me!
I’m just getting back to cooking this week and have seen all of these lovely shots of tender, young, fresh asparagus being harvested here and there (oh how I wish I could grow my own) and I became overwhelmed with desire. Though it’s not quite in season locally as far as I can tell, the market did have some good-looking spears the other day, and I succumbed readily to their lure. But what to make? I wanted something fresh tasting and a bit different than my usual plain roasted…not that that isn’t great, mind you.
So since I had some new potatoes on hand already, I decided to make a simple salad, inspired by flavors from many ideas about potato salad and asparagus. The result was a vinaigrette poured over the warm, roasted veggies which pulled together the high notes of both, and made a salad with bright flavors that just screamed Spring! We served it with roasted salmon, and it would be terrific with anything you can think of grilled. It would also make a lovely Easter side dish as an accompaniment to ham. Our leftovers kept very well over night in the fridge to go alongside a sandwich the next day. This is going to be a spring into summer staple from now on around here for sure. Salad days, indeed!
Warm Asparagus and Potato Salad with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette
(Makes 4 servings)
1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, bottoms trimmed and spears sliced diagonally into about 1 1/2 inch sections
1 1/2 lb. red new potatoes, scrubbed and eyes removed but leave skin on, cut into 1 inch pieces
Extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (can use champagne vinegar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Optional garnish of fresh snipped chives if you got ‘em!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the potatoes on the pan and drizzle them with about a tablespoon of olive oil, then toss to coat. Season with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the potatoes in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss the asparagus with about a teaspoon of olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper and add them to the potatoes. Cook the vegetables about 10-15 minutes more, stirring once, until the asparagus is just tender and barely golden, and the potatoes are nicely browned and tender.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking to emulsify.
Place the warm veggies in a medium sized serving bowl, re-whisk the vinaigrette, then pour it over and toss well to coat. You can serve immediately, or allow this to sit for about 15 minutes to an hour to absorb more of the vinaigrette. Plate and sprinkle with fresh snipped chives if desired.