From a vege-mostly-tarian’s perspective, spring and summer are the seasons to beat. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available in abundance, and the variety, especially in summer, is simply unmatched. I make at least one salad a day; using anything from the usual lettuce and Israeli cucumbers to radishes to carrots to tomatoes and nectarines, mushrooms and garlic scapes and beets and even raw kale (my newest addition), I rarely repeat ingredients two days in a row.
It’s in this light that barbeque food confuses the hell out of me; why, when there are so many beautiful fruits and vegetables available, do we resort to coleslaws and potato salads that are literally choking on my gloppy, quivering, nemesis, the devil named Mayo? Those thick, white dressings are a “no, thanks” for me, but if we’re going to use them, why not when we’re on our 20th batch of kale and need to get creative about masking the taste of winter? I simply don’t get the desire to coat delicious summer vegetables in all that goop. …And the Mayo gripes resume.
While I almost always serve a leafy green salad with meals these days, I did buy some really beautiful tiny tomatoes at the Foggy Bottom market last week, which gave me an occasion to reconsider the merits of potato salad. I’m not a huge potato person, but I get the appeal of having a side dish that’s got some starch and substance but isn’t the same old rice or other grain. However, instead of putting the potatoes front and center, I decided to make room for other vegetables to share the limelight. Happily, the market provided many options. I settled on some pattypan, small summer squash that are shaped somewhat like a flying saucer, as well as some nice-looking green beans.
After boiling, shocking, and slicing the potatoes, I sliced and blanched the zucchini. I left the green beans raw, for crunch, and I’m glad I did — they provided a much-needed contrast to the softer vegetables. I coated the salad in a light, tangy, slightly spicy shallot-mustard vinaigrette, which complemented the slight bitterness of the zucchini and gave otherwise boring potatoes some real character. All in all, this is the type of potato salad I’d actually go for: it highlights summer produce instead of masking it, and its tangy flavors will make a great addition to any barbeque.
Not So Potato-y Salad
1 pound small (like, really small) red and yellow potatoes
2 long summer squash (yellow or green), sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 pound green beans, halved
2 shallots, diced finely
2 teaspoons coarse dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup sherry or white wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon walnut oil, optional
salt and pepper
Boil potatoes in 4 cups water until soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and transfer to serving bowl. Let cool 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, blanch squash slices in potato water about 2 minutes, just until soft. Drain and run under cold water for a couple seconds to stop cooking. Transfer to serving bowl.
Slice potatoes into rounds, and transfer to serving bowl. Add green beans and toss to mix.
In a small bowl or dressing jar, combine all remaining ingredients except oil. Pour oil in a slow stream, whisking to combine. If using jar, shake vigorously to emulsify. Add dressing to salad and toss about 10 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.