Pesto Chango: Try This Simple Tarragon Pesto on Potato Salad

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A quick and easy potato salad in a pesto-like tarragon dressing. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Tarragon may be one of my favorite herbs, which is actually kind of odd given how much I dislike most licorice-flavored foods. Whatever the explanation for that conflict, I wanted to try to make tarragon work in a pesto-like sauce. The risk, though, is that large quantities of tarragon can be too potent (in fact, large doses of tarragon have a mild anesthetic effect, causing a mouth-tingling, numbing sensation).

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To get just enough of the tarragon flavor without it overwhelming the sauce or causing strange oral sensations, I mixed it with a larger quantity of parsley, which is mild enough not to upstage the tarragon. I also kept this sauce very simple to give it a very clean flavor, leaving out the nuts and cheese you'd typically put into a pesto. Some folks may object that it's no longer a pesto without nuts and cheese. To that, I say it technically stopped being pesto as we know it as soon as I changed the herbs. For just the faintest hint of warm chili heat, I also blended in a pinch of espelette pepper, which is mild and fruity in flavor.

Instead of serving this sauce on pasta, I decided to dress a potato salad with it instead. I used incredibly sweet young Yukon Golds that I picked up at the farmers market, and tossed in some pickled red onion and pitted Kalamata olives.

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A quick twenty-minute bath in red wine vinegar transforms the onions, from raw and potent (above), to more tender and mild (below)—even the color of the onion changes.

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If you don't feel like making the potato salad, this tarragon pesto would be great on steamed or roasted fish, chicken, and boiled eggs.