Oh, summer! It’s the season where creative salads can take the place of hot vegetables as side dishes, and make a table look wonderfully colorful and bright.
At the start of the summer, I glanced at a recipe for a potato salad with a difference in a newspaper or magazine, and then I promptly forgot where I read it. So I decided to put together my own version and include some of my favorite summer additions. My salad is a roasted baby potato and cherry tomato salad with blanched asparagus in a red onion vinaigrette. It’s a wonderful salad that raises the level of the old fashioned potato salad and adds lots of color and flavor. My recipe is for the full version, where you oven roast the potatoes and the cherry tomatoes. But you can also boil the potatoes instead (although I highly recommend the roasted version as the potatoes emerge form the oven with a sweetness you can never achieve in a pot of boiling water), and you can use sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (again, I recommend the home made version which is a little more work but the flavor is just wonderful).
The oven roasted/dried tomatoes are a really wonderful ingredient, and so versatile. You can use them standalone as a great addition to a brunch table, with cheeses and breads – they’re delicious on fresh bread with any kind of cream cheese. You can also add some cubed feta or Bulgarian cheese and thinly sliced red onion and serve them as a salad. This is also a great way to generate amazing flavor out of cherry or small vine tomatoes that have no taste (it happens sometimes.) When I buy tomatoes that are tasteless I always oven dried them. This draws out their flavor and it’s really amazing to taste the difference.
ROASTED BABY POTATO, CHERRY TOMATO AND ASPARAGUS SALAD IN RED ONION VINAIGRETTE
About 1 kg (2 lb) baby/new potatoes unpeeled and washed
About 500g (1 lb) cherry or small vine tomatoes sliced in half
Salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh asparagus (about 20 spears) with the ends snapped off*
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 whole head of garlic (roasted)
1 small red onion or half a red onion
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
2. Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and sprinkle it with olive oil. Place the potatoes on the tray along with the head of garlic. Roast in the oven for about an hour, stirring after about half an hour. When the potatoes have browned a little and a fork slides very easily through one, they are ready. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into bite sized chunks – not too small.
3. Turn the heat up to 220°C (430°F).
4. Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and sprinkle it with olive oil. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the paper. Sprinkle them with some salt and pepper and roast them for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven.
5. Lower the temperature of the oven to 150°C (300°F) and continue to roast them for another 30-45 minutes or until they have shriveled to about half their size (don’t et them burn – when they start turning a brown color, it’s time to take them out). Allow to cool.
6. Bring water to a boil in a large pot (make sure the pot is wide enough for the asparagus to lie in fully submerged. Add some salt when the water starts boiling. Add the asparagus to the boiling water. Boil for no more than 2 minutes from the time the asparagus hit the water. Remove the asparagus and plunge them into a bowl of ice water (this keeps the green color from fading and stops the cooking process immediately so the asparagus remain crunchy). Drain. Cut into bite sized pieces.
Now you have all the components of the salad cooked, it’s time to make the dressing.
7. Place the red onion, cut into smaller chunks, in a food processor, and process it using the large chopping blade. Then add the rest of the dressing ingredients and the roasted garlic cloves and blend till combined. Mix together will all the salad ingredients and serve.
Note: You can easily adjust the quantities in this recipe for a larger salad. Double the dressing quantities and keep the leftovers for another day.
*The way to remove the hard ends of fresh asparagus is simply to take the spear of asparagus in both hands and bend until it snaps. Where it breaks is the point where the spear becomes hard. Discard the hard ends. (You can snap a few at a time).