Salad Days

Salad daysis 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

Vinaigrette:
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.

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54 thoughts on “Salad Days

    • I know what you mean, Carol. I seem to have a really hard time getting tarragon to survive in my yard or on my deck at all! 😦 I cheated and bought some at the store. I’ll try again this year and see if I get lucky growing it!

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  1. This salad looks and sounds so fresh, Betsy! It’s just perfect for Spring. Although we had an early round of asparagus, the local ones are still a few weeks away — and I cannot wait. When it does get here, I’m going to make this recipe. It’s just what I’m looking for. Thanks!

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    • I hope you’ll like this if you make it, John, thanks! I can’t wait for the local asparagus, either. You don’t see much of it…I think everyone snaps it up as fast as they can, or the growers just keep most of it! Can’t say as I’d blame them for that. 🙂

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  2. This is great betsy and you know i am going to make it because i have the asparagus! Pounds of it! And yes as you mentioned in your comment above. i am going to eat as much of my crop as i can!!! (wicked laughter!).. Oh i wish you lived down the road you could pop in and pick yourself some! c

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  3. Tarragon is one of my favorite spices.. I love what you’ve done here.. it’s everything I would want for in a spring dish! It’s now saved under my Recipes to Try folder. I also love that we are all in our “salad days” no matter the age!!

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  4. What a great looking salad Betsy and the asparagus looks amazing! Greg over at Rufus Fine Food and Spirits Guide did a post about oven roasting the asparagus with lemon slices on top and it’s absolutely amazing. We’ve even grilled them with the lemon slices above and below them. Really really tasty.

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      • I think lemon and asparagus are just made for each other no matter how you bring the two together! As to the cats, well mine don’t poo in there, but they do try and pee, or just dig and roll in the dirt, completely messing up my seeds and seedlings. Still, we have very destructive bunnies around here so it’s a toss up as to who or what is a bigger pest!

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    • Thanks, Jed…the vinaigrette does really make the salad, though I do love both veggies plain, too with just a little salt, pepper and olive oil.

      I am still salivating over that pizza at your place with the asparagus and salmon! 🙂

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    • It really is great with grilled items! One of the things I love about potatoes is that they are so versatile…they do seem to combine well with many things. I like this because I get some green into the mix…and I love asparagus of course!

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  5. That’s such a beautiful looking salad Betsy. I just love the vibrant colours and I’m sure the tarragon dressing was perfect with the warm potatoes. And yes, I can see this being enjoyed with a variety of grilled meats straight off the BBQ xx

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    • It’s definitely a great combo of flavors and thanks so much for your compliments Charlie Louie. I’ll definitely be serving this with burgers and other grillables this spring and into summer. Greg at Rufus recommended green beans as a sub for asparagus and I love that idea when my beans are ready!

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  6. Looks fantastic – and sounds so easy too! You know, I had no idea that spring was prime plucking season for aspargus – I’d always assumed it was ready a bit later…

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    • Hi Charles, yes at least around here, Spring is asparagus prime time. I suppose it all depends on your growing conditions. And in fact, we still have a couple of weeks here before our local will be ready, but in other parts of the country, they are already harvesting. I sure do wish I could grow my own….she says wistfully! 😉

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    • Ha ha! Actually, Brydie, it’s the expression that’s old. And I’m older than you, so nope…you’re not an oldie, just a goodie, right? So good to see you back out and about! This is one of those salads that I just keep wanting to make over and over until I get tired of it! 🙂

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  7. This looks marvelous! Thanks for posting it. I do actually have two asparagus patches…though I’m not very good at knowing how to care for them. We really do enjoy the two or so weeks that we get them – even my kids like them. I will totally try this recipe!

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    • Thanks Gretchen! Oh, lucky you! I just don’t have the space or sun for asparagus, but there’s nothing better during their short season. They are great just blanched and dipped into your favorite dip…I like a curry mixed in with some light mayo…yum!

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  8. This is a must make. Love how the potatoes and asparagus are roasted using only one sheet pan. Asparagus is starting to come up and the ones in the stores are also looking good.

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