Sunday, June 7, 2009

Potato Bliss

Most of my weekly food inspiration comes from the farmer's market. Even though I generally know what the farmers have in any given season, I like to see what pops out at me. What strikes my fancy, you might say.
Sometimes the produce has a cheerleader. Just like yesterday. While walking my usual route I heard from the distance, "A must try! New crop of butterball potatoes!" I like potatoes as much as the next girl but if it were between a potato and a piece of dark crusty bread (maybe even specked with walnuts...YYYUUUMMM!), the bread always wins out. I went by the stand to witness this amazing "new crop". Approaching the stand I saw a beautiful crate of waxy and perfectly round yellow potatoes.

"Have you ever had our butterballs?" the farmer's asked.
"Not yet, " I said, thinking, no one would turn down a food item named butterball.
"They've got a creamy, almost velvety texture. A must try!", she exclaimed. (I loved her enthusiasm and confidence.)

I bought the potatoes, excited to try something new. But roasting these just would not do. Roasted potatoes are fine but I wanted something lighter, more springy. With that I looked over at the next stand to discover a gorgeous bunch of basil. The foods Gods were definitely smiling on me. Potato salad with basil pesto it is.

I love basil! It's so versatile and in this dish it adds the perfect bit of herby sweetness. I threw in mint and cilantro for added freshness but feel free to use any other herbs you like. Dill and parsley would work nice as well.

Basil Pesto Potato Salad with Spring Vegetables
1 lb small German butterball potatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces and blanched (quickly throw into boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain, should still be crunchy)
1 cup sugar snap peas, de-stemmed and blanched (throw in with the asparagus)
1/4 cup minced green onion (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Cut potatoes in half, quarters if they are larger. Bring a pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt, and boil potatoes until cooked. About 12 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain in a colander, place in a glass or ceramic bowl, squeeze with lemon, and cover with a dish towel. This allows the potatoes to steam and get extra creamy. Let stand for 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are steaming, make your pesto.

Fresh Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup (this also freezes beautifully)

1 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed, dried, and packed in
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano (A microplane works well here. No green can please!)
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Celtic sea salt

Place basil in the food processor and pulse a few times. Combine pine nuts in with the basil, and pulse again. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is going. Stop to scrape down the sides with a spoon or spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt to taste.

Combine potatoes, asparagus, and snap peas with the pesto. Add the pesto one tablespoon at a time to make sure you don't over dress it. Add the cilantro, green onion, and mint, squeeze in a little more lemon and serve warm. Enjoy!

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