- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Although summer’s official arrival is late June, Memorial Day is, for many of us, the unofficial beginning of the warm weather season. I pull out my grill from the garage and collect my favorite summer recipes, including barbecued ribs, smoky chicken, fish and steaks cooked over an open fire, all manner of salads, cooling lemonades and iced teas, and juicy fruit pies.

It didn’t take me long to choose a menu for a backyard supper this Memorial Day weekend. We’ll begin with toasted pita triangles topped with guacamole and a sprinkle of bacon, and continue with lemon- and pepper-grilled chicken served with a roasted potato salad and the season’s first corn on the cob. A blueberry tart will bring the meal to a close.

The delectable roasted potato salad with peas and chives is a variation on one I’ve made for years. In this version, I toss roasted red skins (cleaned but not peeled) with chopped hard-cooked eggs and peas, and drizzle the trio with a mustard and shallot dressing.

Roasting the potatoes adds an extra depth of flavor and can be done in advance. In fact, the potatoes and hard-cooked eggs can be tossed in the dressing several hours ahead, so that all that is necessary at serving time is to stir in the cooked peas and chives.

This salad would make a fine accompaniment to Memorial Day mainstays such as hamburgers, sausages or steaks. But it would be equally delicious with grilled salmon or shrimp. The recipe serves six but it can be doubled easily for a crowd.

Roasted potato salad with peas and chives

DRESSING:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

SALAD:

2 pounds red skin potatoes, cleaned but not peeled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

3 large hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped (see note)

1 cup (5 ounces) fresh or frozen peas, cooked and patted dry

1/4 cup chopped chives, divided

For dressing, place vinegar, mustard, shallots, 1 teaspoon salt and several grindings of pepper in a large nonreactive salad bowl and whisk well to combine. Whisk in 1/3 cup oil. (Dressing can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using and whisk well.)

Have ready a large baking sheet. Halve potatoes lengthwise. Then slice each half lengthwise into -inch wide wedges. Put potatoes into a large mixing bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper and 1/3 cup olive oil.

Spread potatoes in a single layer on baking sheet. Pour any oil remaining in bowl over them. Roast potatoes on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven until golden and tender when pierced with a knife, 40 to 45 minutes. Watch carefully and stir potatoes every 10 minutes to ensure that they don’t stick. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Add potatoes and chopped eggs to bowl with dressing and toss well to coat. (Salad can be prepared 2 hours ahead to this point. Cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

When ready to serve, add peas and half of chives to potato salad and toss well to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle remaining chives over salad. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Although a simple kitchen task, many people have trouble making hard-cooked eggs. Place eggs in a saucepan in a single layer and add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook 12 minutes. Remove eggs and plunge them into a bowl of cold water 2 to 3 minutes or longer until eggs are cool. Crack and remove shells.

Betty Rosbottom is author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

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