Spring Potato Salad

I have a niece who lives in New York City and just started a food blog, Season with Reason. For those who love cooking  local and seasonal foods, I highly recommend it to you. She focuses on ingredients and recipes, so you can enjoy the blog  no matter where you live. She also tackles nutrition and the politics of food, so it’s a worthwhile read.

Rebecca recently posted a recipe for potato salad that looked so appealing I had to try it. It’s from Smitten Kitchen and it sings with glorious notes of spring.

As you can see from the photos, I used Peruvian blue potatoes, though Yukon gold, fingerlings or any baby new potatoes would work beautifully. I also added basil and mint because both herbs are thriving in my garden and I couldn’t resist. My favorite part of the recipe was the pickled onions. The pickling process transforms their taste and could be used in most salad recipes that call for raw onions.

Enjoy!

Asparagus Season

To me, asparagus sings “spring”, a welcome song after a long winter.

If you grow asparagus, you’re picking more than you know what to do with, and if you’ve been in the grocery store this month, you  can’t avoid the large displays of it.

Avoid no more. Whether you want to make soup, salad, or simply a side dish, this is the time to enjoy it at the height  of its freshness and availability.

My favorite way to serve asparagus is to grill it. First snap the stalks to get rid of the rough and chewy ends. Then drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and a bit of  black pepper. Using tongs, move the asparagus around on  the plate  to coat each  spear before placing them directly on a hot grill.  Depending on the thickness, I usually don’t leave them on the grill more than 5 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even cooking and blackening. Stay close and watch them carefully to avoid burning.

Once the asparagus is cooked, the  least complicated way to eat it is as a side dish with meat or fish, embellished only with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  I also enjoy making  a salad with asparagus, using greens  or grains  as the base.  Here’s a great Bobby Flay recipe that is substantial enough to serve as a full meal. If you don’t want to take the time to make olive vinaigrette, buy a jar of olive tapenade and doctor it with some red wine vinegar and a touch of mustard.

When asparagus season nears its end and the stalks start getting thick and tougher, use them to make a cream-less asparagus soup.In this recipe, I reserve the tips, microwaved separately, and add them to the finished product. I also puree the whole batch, using one of my favorite tools, an immersion blender. And instead of garlic, I add a chopped yellow onion along with the leek. The sour cream is not an essential element, so feel free to eliminate the fat and skip it altogether–it’s even better that way–pure spring in a bowl.

 

Reprinted from 2010

Cafe Sebastienne

Café Sebastienne has been a perennial favorite since its debut in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995. In the original and smaller dining room, colorful oils by Artist Fredrick James Brown cover the walls. Diners can also choose to sit in the enclosed IMG_0250courtyard, with its vast ceilings, bright sunshine and decidedly louder decibel level.

Though I am always drawn to the tomato tart that highlights the summer menu, on a recent visit I decided to try the asparagus salad that my friend always orders. We were there to celebrate her birthday, so we complemented our salads with a glass of wine, a gesture that for me feels decadent and delicious, as I usually only imbibe after five. I enjoyed the NEXT Reisling, which is from the King Estate folks in Oregon, though the grapes are sourced from Washington. It was fruity without being the slightest bit sweet.

Now to the highlight of the meal (other than the wonderful conversation with the birthday girl, of course). The asparagus salad was a winner. Asparagus are grilled and served with baby coins of roasted fingerling potatoes and a poached egg. A warm truffle vinaigrette turns a nice dish into a sensational one. The menu offers it with applewood-smoked bacon, but we opted for the vegetarian version. Runny eggs are a big thing these days, on all sorts of dishes. I’m not a morning egg person–I could go through the rest of my life without another omelette or fried eggs and toast. But this new trend hits the right notes, with the yolk oozing out and mixing with other flavors on the plate.

It’s hard to go wrong with anything on Cafe Sebastienne’s menu. Other long-loved dishes include moist fish tacos with spicy black beans and avocado sauce, ever-changing soups and salads, fist-sized crab cakes and an awesome Reuben sandwich.

Just a reminder–if you can’t get there for lunch, it’s only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday brunch is also a treat.IMG_0251

Cafe Sebastienne on Urbanspoon

Tasty Tips

Asparagus season will be over soon–don’t miss out on one of spring’s most versatile and tasty offerings. Select freshly picked stalks, without the chalky film at the bottom. Whether steaming, roasting or grilling, simply snap each one near the end; they will break at the proper point, where the woody and tender parts meet. Grilling is my favorite preparation. Before throwing the spears on a hot grill, dress them with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Turn every couple of minutes until just cooked through. (Like green beans, if the vibrant green color disappears, the asparagus is overcooked.) Once off the grill, arrange on a special platter and splash with additional vinegar. Finally, top with shavings of Parmesan. Alternatively, roast for 10-15 minutes in a 400-degree oven.


Previously published in the Independent magazine.