As the temperature rose over the weekend I found my appetite slipping. While my thoughts are normally spent deciding where, when, and what to eat next, this weekend my big decisions were based on what type of cool and refreshing beverage was next in the sipping rotation. For once, food and cooking were the last things on my mind. But once my thirst was quenched (by all manner of iced tea and coffee, cold beer, and chilled rosé) my appetite returned and crisp spring vegetables were all that I wanted.
But we can't sustain on brightly dressed young lettuces alone so my thoughts turned to the more substantial salads of summer. This Warm Salad of Asparagus and New Potatoes from The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson is a wonderful way to make a meal out of the best that your local farmers' market has to offer this time of year.
With this salad, Hopkinson has assembled all of the elements necessary for an ideal spring or summer meal—sweet new potatoes, fresh asparagus and herbs, and a rich lemon-butter sauce and grated hard boiled eggs for richness. The beauty of this recipe is that it can be adapted as the summer progresses to include whatever's in season, but the satisfying nature of the formula remains the same.
Win The Vegetarian Option
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Vegetarian Option to give away this week.
- 3/4 pound new potatoes, scrupulously scraped or peeled
- 2 large mint sprigs
- 2 scant tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound asparagus tips
- Hearts of 2 Boston lettuces, leaves separated, washed and carefully dried
- Maldon sea salt
- 2 hard boiled eggs, shelled
- Handful of chervil sprigs
- For the sauce:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of superfine sugar
- 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
Simmer the potatoes in lightly salted water just to cover, with the mint, until tender. Drain over another pan or bowl, keep the water for now, and return the potatoes to the pan with the butter. Stir together, cover, and keep warm.
For the sauce, take a roomy and shallow, stainless steel or enameled saucepan and squeeze in the lemon juice. Add 6 tablespoons of the potato cooking water and the sugar, then simmer this mixture until reduced by half. Now slowly incorporate the butter, one chunk at a time, whisking over a thread of heat until limpid and homogenous (this is essentially a light butter sauce). Season with pepper. Again, keep warm.
Peel the asparagus tips from just below the bud and slice them in half lengthwise. Add to a pan of boiling well-salted water and boil rapidly for about 1 to 2 minutes (eat one to see if they are cooked; they should be just tender, not almost raw), then drain.
Slice the warm potatoes and add these, together with the asparagus, to the butter sauce. Turn them gently through the sauce with the chives, until all are evenly coated.
Arrange the lettuce leaves on four plates and divide the asparagus and the potatoes between them. Sprinkle them with Maldon sea salt and judiciously grate the egg over. Generously scatter over chervil sprigs, which are not there just to look pretty; their faint anise flavor is very pleasing.