Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad

Tonight is my last night of scuba diving class. It has been fun spending my Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last two and a half weeks taking quizzes and breathing underwater, but I’m glad it is almost over. The classes extend a half hour beyond my designated bed time, you see, preventing me from getting my required 9 hours of sleep each night. Nonetheless, it’s pretty cool that I now feel comfortable with the act of breathing through a regulator underwater.

I have been meaning to obtain my Open Water Diver certificate ever since I studied abroad in Australia in 2006. As a student, it was too expensive, though I did do a “resort dive” in the Great Barrier Reef, which allowed me to go underwater with a scuba unit for around 20 minutes, albeit holding on to an instructor’s hand.

Before Eric and I went on our honeymoon, I thought of taking classes also, but Eric had some anxiety about it. So we held off, promising that we’d do another “resort dive” when we were staying on Pom Pom Island off the coast of Borneo – off some of the very best dive sites in the world. It’s true – the diving and even the snorkeling is amazing there. Better than any snorkeling I’ve done elsewhere, including the Great Barrier Reef. Eric happened to catch a cold when we were there, and after watching the video that shows your lung exploding, he didn’t want to risk it. I dove, again holding on to my smarmy Italian instructor’s hand, and thought it was awesome. With that, I decided to take the plunge and invest in Open Water courses and my very own snorkeling gear.

bye bye water bungalow
Water bungalows at Pom Pom Island

lion fish!
Lion fish in Borneo

nemo!
It’s nemo

eric "making the snorkel"
Eric “makes the snorkel”, as our Italian dive master would say

Anyway, what does this have to do with potato salad? Nothing, really, but it is a fun little intro. This potato salad is full of all kinds of springy, healthy goodies. Nearly all my ingredients came from the market – including the Russian fingerling potatoes, asparagus, stinging nettles, and green garlic. It’s a versatile recipe, though, so if nettles and green garlic aren’t available or don’t float your boat, a simple vinaigrette would work nicely as well.

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Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad with Stinging Nettle and Green Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 pound fresh asparagus
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3-4 stalks stinging nettles, leaves only
1-2 stalks green garlic, chopped into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 can tuna packed in olive oil
1/4 cup capers

Start by boiling the potatoes. Fill a pot with cool or room temperature water. Plop in the potatoes and bring to a boil. Boil them until they are al dente or just underdone. Strain out the water and put the potatoes in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. Slice the potatoes into thin discs and set aside.

Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, shred the asparagus into this strips, keeping the heads in tact. Bring another pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the shaved asparagus in for 1 minute, then remove. Mix with the potatoes.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, nettles, and green garlic in a food processor. Process until the oil is emulsified and the solids are nicely ground. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste, as well as some additional lemon juice or vinegar if needed.

Finally, strain and rinse the can of tuna. Combine the potatoes, asparagus, capers, and tuna, then toss with the dressing.

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Potato Salad

Whew, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, you know, getting married!

Wedding Photo

What a cool, fun day we had. I’m so sad, actually, that’s it’s over. Everyone told me I’d feel relief. Really I just feel this huge sense of disappointment that we don’t get to party anymore! I mean, look at that photo – what cool friends we have! What a beautiful location we had!

Alas, back to work and cooking now. I actually made this recipe for my family a few weeks ago and everyone really enjoyed it. Potato salads seem to epitomize summer, but I’ve never understood the thick mayonnaise dressing that can’t sit out in the sun and fills your belly to the point of disgust. A few things make this potato salad stand out – a vinegar and oil dressing, cilantro, and beans. Together, they elevate the dish and make it taste, in my opinion, a lot more of summer.

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Potato Salad

1 pound potatoes
1/2 pound green beans
1/2 pound turkey bacon (I found a pepper turkey bacon)
1/2 cup cilantro
4 shallots
2 jalapenos
1 clove garlic
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
red wine vinegar, to taste, to finish the dressing

Start by getting the potatoes in salted, boiling water. Cook them until they’re just barely soft all the way through. In the last couple minutes, toss the beans in and blanch them. When finished, put them in an ice/water bath to stop the cooking and keep the beans very green.

Meanwhile, brown the bacon in a separate pan. Keep the brown bits and rendered fat in the pan.

Mince the garlic, shallots, and jalapeno. Keep the seeds and ribs if you like it very spicy, otherwise remove. Toss them all in the rendered fat for a quick saute. You just want to barely cook these – the garlic should still be pungent, the jalapeno still fresh and spicy, and the shallots still crisp. In a bowl, mix the aromatics and rendered fat with the olive oil and lemon juice. Taste, and add more red wine vinegar if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Once cool, chop the potatoes into cubes and the beans into inch-long pieces. Combine with the dressing and top with cilantro.