Pesto Potato Salad
I realize I’m likely to be condemned for high summer treason for what I’m about to suggest, but I feel it must be expressed: let’s skip the grill at our next barbecue. When the tables are loaded with sides as vibrant and beautifully fresh as today’s Pesto Potato Salad, I’m far too distracted to care about what’s being served between the buns.
Before the High Court of All Barbecue strips me of my tongs and denies me access to Peach Shortcake as punishment, please hear my plea. Yes, burgers are good. Yes, a hot dog during June and July is a necessity. But would I choose said hotdog or burger over a crisp serving of addictive Asian Ramen Salad, fresh and fruity Red White and Blue Quinoa Fruit Salad, or Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread? The answer is no, no I would not.
At nearly every backyard cookout I attend, I find myself taking a few obligatory bites of the burger or dog, mostly as a way to make more room on my plate for yet another serving of Easy Baked Beans. I could make a meal of the sides at any barbecue and leave a happy girl.
Now, I am not advocating that you spend this Fourth of July burgerless, hot dogless, or without a grill—even my side dish-loving soul admits that this would feel unnatural and offensive. I am, however, insisting, that you take a moment to consider your spread and give attention to the salads, the bakes, and the dips that honor and celebrate the gorgeous abundance of summer produce. This Pesto Potato Salad is the perfect place to begin.
Although I consider sides my soul food at summer events, I’ve never been a fan of the classic mayo-based potato salad for two reasons. One, I find nearly all of them to be excessively goopy and sorely lacking in flavor of any kind, which is a crime when you consider what wonderful little vehicles for bright, herbaceous, and zippy tastes that summer new potatoes can be. Two, I have an irreversible, life-long aversion to mayonnaise (just ask my mother).
Let’s ditch the soggy mayo blob for a bright, zesty pesto potato salad that shouts summer. I blended peppery arugula, basil, and almonds in my trusty food processor, then tossed the resulting pesto sauce over potatoes that I lightly boiled on the stove.
To add extra green and incorporate even more of summer’s bounty, I folded in quickly blanched green beans and peas. Feel free to add other herbs or nuts you love to the pesto, grill the potatoes instead of boiling them, and even to use frozen peas to speed up the prep. This Pesto Potato Salad recipe is deliciously forgiving, though I must say—I’m quite smitten with how it came out as written.
Every spoonful of Pesto Potato Salad makes me want to lie in the sun or stand with my barefeet in freshly cut grass. It’s a bowl full of magnificent summer, ready to be shared with the people you love most.
Dear High Court of All Barbecue: might I swap you a generous serving of Pesto Potato Salad in exchange for lightening my sentence?
Pesto Potato Salad
- 2 pounds new or baby potatoes — scrubbed and sliced in half or in quarters if large (leave the skins on)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt — divided
- 3/4 pound green beans — ends trimmed and cut in half
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups loosely packed arugula
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds — plus 2 tablespoons, divided
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large clove garlic — peeled
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, — plus additional for serving
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup green peas — (fresh or frozen)
Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover them with cold water, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, then cook until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, gently remove the potatoes from the water and place them in a large bowl. Set aside.
Return the water to a gentle boil, then add the green beans to the pot. Let cook just until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain into a colander, then quickly rinse the beans with cold water to stop their cooking.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the basil, arugula, 1/3 cup almonds, Parmesan, garlic clove, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse the ingredients until evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour the olive oil into the feed tube and blend until smooth.
While the potatoes are still warm, pour the pesto over the top, then toss gently to combine, being careful to break up the potatoes as little as possible. Add the green beans to the bowl with the potatoes, then add the peas and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir all of the gently to combine. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the top, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
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