Potato Salad with Pea-Yogurt Dressing
I’ve been more inspired than ever by the farmers’ market this year. I’m not sure why. My meals have been easy but beautiful in how fresh they are. But last week I saw a shift at the market—a sudden one. It was ten times fuller, more vibrant than it had been just a week before. There was now an American flag of berry varieties, corn (!), potatoes, multi-colored carrots, cherry and grape tomatoes. I am missing the asparagus and strawberries of early summer, but my mood brightened as I made my rounds, trying not to buy everything. (As I walked, I recited a staccato chant, “one person, one stomach, shared refrigerator.”)
But despite those spring/early summer goods being gone, there were still so many peas. Peas. Have we not had our fill? Since the farmers’ markets started for the season, every farm, every vendor has had what seems like a bottomless basket of English Shelling Peas. I love them, sure. They’re sweet and crunchy and green, and I love the way they pop in between my teeth. But their supply seems never-ending. I had always thought their season was relatively short. I thought they couldn’t survive the heat. But hordes swarm them week after week, picking, eating, bagging, buying, and there are still so many once I reach the market at my late hour.
I’ve been thinking hard about something lately. These thoughts weren’t initially spurred by peas, of course. My dad’s friend and co-worker, let’s just call him [J] for the sake of anonymity, passed away last week. He started suffering a year or so ago from an advance stage of cancer. Boom. Out of no where. I’d be lying to you if I said I knew this man. I met him once. Tall, skinny as heck, long-haired, and a bit country. That’s all I remember about him. But what I do know is that he trained my dad at his company (my dad has been with the company for around 25 years) and my dad eventually became one of his bosses and managers. My dad said he was brilliant; he may have even used the term “genius,” I don’t know. But I do know that he was someone who touched my dad’s life profoundly.
And my cousin in Iran, we’ll call her [E], has a digestive disease far worse than mine. She’s a little girl, 12, who suffers so. Her condition is worsening, her intravenous medication out of financial reach.
But 50-something. Fuck, 50-something. 12. Fuck, 12. How does this happen? Why do people get sick? Why do good people get handed such bad cards? Can you ask questions like this—in a manner so casual it sounds like you’re asking why Santa Claus doesn’t exist?
I’ve always been a rock. I don’t ask such questions. I know the answers. They happen because they do, dammit. A stone can’t soften, right? Maybe I’m changing. Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s those farmers’ market peas. But I’m asking them, even if one’s death, admittedly, didn’t touch me at my core; even if I’ve never met the little girl who lives continents away.
Something my dad said struck me: [J] had recently been relocated to Colorado for his job. Nature, the mountains, the rivers, and the crisp wind were his passions. And he now lived among them, in his happiest of states. It was not until he reached true happiness that his life was struck by sadness.
It might even be tacky to jump to a recipe after this. But that’s all I thought as I opened those pods, popped some raw into my mouth, experiencing their starchy freshness, and blanching, shocked and processed the rest. Why can’t life be as abundant as those peas? Let’s eat from the soil until we are a part of it.
Potato Salad with Pea-Yogurt Dressing
Serves 3 to 4
This recipe had me using my peas in a way I’ve never used them before: processed into a sauce. It was an impromptu spin on Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Conchiglie with Yoghurt, Peas & Chile from their cookbook Jerusalem. This recipe has been praised by bloggers and cooks all over the internet, including this one. Faced with an abundance of peas, I turned to it to coat my potatoes, making substitutions using what I had. (The original recipe calls for garlic instead of garlic scapes, pine nuts instead of almonds, feta cheese instead of goat cheese, and black pepper instead of white pepper—but I loved my substitutions.) The punch of chile-infused nuts and oil brilliantly cuts the sweetness of the peas. I add an extra ingredient, vinegar, to the hot potatoes to season. The pasta dish is meant to be served warm. This potato version is best at room temperature, but the leftovers also taste good out of the refrigerator.
Itt made a damn good potato salad—one to accompany a summer meal as a classy side dish. In fact, I can’t imagine preparing it any other way. It’s the freshest-tasting potato dish I’ve eaten. To peas!
790 grams (about 1 3/4 pounds) baby Yukon Gold or red new potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds in diameter), unpeeled, halved or quartered if large
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
165 grams (about a heaping 3/4 cup) whole-milk Greek yogurt
150 grams (1/3 pound) fresh peas, blanched for about 1 minutes and shocked
50 grams (1/4 cup) olive oil
3 teaspoons minced garlic scapes
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped almonds
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
12 grams (about 1/2 cup) basil leaves
80 grams (about 2 2/3 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled into chunks
Bring potatoes to boil in salted water to cover by 1-inch in large saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer into fork slips easily in and out of potatoes, 12 to 16 minutes (do not overcook). Drain potatoes and toss with vinegar; set aside for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, process yogurt, 35 grams (about 1/4 cup) of peas, 2 tablespoons oil, and 3 teaspoons garlic scapes in food processor until uniform sauce forms. Set aside
Heat remaining oil, in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and chile flakes and cooks, stirring occasionally until nuts are toasted and oil is red.
Toss potatoes with as much of the pea-yogurt dressing as you like, saving the remainder for leftover servings. Add basil, goat cheese, remaining peas, and salt and pepper to taste and toss gently to combine. Drizzle individual servings with chile oil–nut mixture and top with more basil and goat cheese if desired.