Yotam Ottolenghi's Pesto Potato Salad
Yotam Ottolenghi is a London chef whose books, Plenty and Jerusalem, have been two of the most popular and critically acclaimed cookbooks of the last two years. His style of cooking, which shows influences of his Israeli childhood, German mother, Italian father, London culinary training, and Palestinian business partner (whew!), is both global and completely rooted in seasonal ingredients, prepared simply but creatively. I have loved every dish I’ve cooked from these books and though their style and origins are far from what we think of as traditional New England fare, they help me to see familiar ingredients (potatoes, parsley, squash, carrots) in fresh and novel ways.
So as Memorial Day came around early this week, I decided to try the Ottolenghi take on good old potato salad, and here’s what I got.
This is basically a pesto potato salad, with the addition of peas, eggs, mint, a little vinegar, and extra parsley, and it was tastier and more colorful than any potato salad I’ve had before. Ottolenghi calls this “Royal potato salad” (named after the variety of new potatoes he prefers) and he makes the dish with quail eggs. But I found that the recipe worked beautifully with chicken eggs cooked so that the yolks remained yellow and creamy, not pale and chalky (see instructions below).
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pesto Potato Salad
I’ve adapted this recipe to substitute regular chicken eggs for the quail eggs. Follow these instructions for boiling the eggs and you’ll get those gorgeous bright yolks.
- 6 to 8 medium eggs
- 1 3/4 pounds small new potatoes
- 1 cup frozen petite peas
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, plus more chopped leaves for garnish
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 bunch mint or sorrel leaves, finely shredded
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the eggs in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the water and roll the eggs around in the pan to crack the shells slightly, then put the eggs in ice water for a couple of minutes. You’ll now find it much easier to peel the eggs.
Meanwhile, in 4- to 5-quart pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a gentle boil. cook until tender, but not crumbling, 10 to 15 minutes, adding the peas to the boiling water for the last minute of cooking. Drain and set aside.
While the potatoes are cooking, place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the oil and pulse until you get a runny pesto. Pour into a large bowl.
As soon as the potatoes are warm enough to handle, cut them in half (they will absorb more flavor when hot). Add to the bowl and toss with the pesto, vinegar, sorrel, and peas. Mix well, even crushing the potatoes slightly, so all the flavors mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning; be generous with the pepper.
Cut the eggs in half (or in quarters) and arrange around the salad. Garnish with chopped parsley. Yield: 6 servings
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