You probably think of salad as the opening act, but who’s to say that salad cannot be the main attraction — salad as a meal. In this case, a salad that showcases spring’s early bounty.
Petite potatoes. Peas. Quail Eggs. Sorrel. Smoked Salmon. Not your typical potato salad by any means. No mayonnaise or mustard to be found in this version. Instead, the salad is dressed with a fresh basil pesto.
The idea for this salad came from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty; one of the books I reach for when I want vegetable inspiration. I love Ottolenghi’s addition of quail eggs to the potato salad. If you can’t find quail eggs, substitute a few chicken eggs (one quail egg weighs roughly 5.5x less than a chicken egg). You can soft-boil or hard-boil the eggs. Personally, I like the yolks set, but still a little runny, such that the yolks and pesto form a harmonious (and tasty) union.
I made a few tweaks to the original recipe to suit my tastes. Specifically, I roasted the potatoes (whole) instead of boiling them. The roasted potatoes tossed in pesto make for a satisfying side dish, but I wanted this salad to be a meal in and of itself. So, also added (hot) smoked sockeye salmon, sauteed young (red) onions that I found at the market, and red-veined sorrel (instead of mint, although a combination of the two would certainly be nice).
Are you familiar with sorrel?
Sorrel (as pictured below) is an herb (and a member of the buckwheat family, along with rhubarb, who knew?). It has an unassuming appearance. At first glance sorrel looks like most every other green, but once you take a bite, you are bound to be surprised by its distinct, lemony tartness. Sorrel typically makes its appearance in early-to mid-spring (depending on where you live) when its leaves are most tender and least acidic.
Speckled quail eggs, how cute are these?
To achieve a soft-boiled yolk, boil the quail egg for 2 1/2 minutes. For a hard-boiled yolk, boil the egg for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
Duck eggs, chicken eggs, and quail eggs…
There are three types of sorrel: broad leaf sorrel, French (or buckler-leaf) sorrel, and red-veined sorrel. Today’s dish features red-veined sorrel.
2 to 3 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds petite potatoes
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
pesto (recipe below)
~ 1 cup sorrel leaves, thinly sliced (or a combination of mint and sorrel)
4 ounces hot smoked salmon, flaked
toasted pine nuts for garnish
Blanch the peas in boiling water, about a minute until just tender. Transfer to an ice water bath. Drain. Set aside.
Heat a skillet with a little olive oil. Add the spring onions, season with salt, and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Toss the potatoes with the pesto. Add the vinegar, peas, spring onion, sorrel, and smoked salmon, and toss to combine. Taste and season with season with salt and pepper.
1 1/2 cups basil (about 2 large bunches)
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste