Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring, with Potatoes and Peanut Sauce

Greetings, dear readers! This is Rose-Anne’s Kitchen, filling in for her. She’s been floating around on a cloud ever since her committee meeting the other day. Rose-Anne also has a wicked case of spring fever. The other night, she left my sink filled with dirty dishes so she could take a walk in that warm spring air. Normally, this sort of slovenliness does not sit well with me, but I figure that after a winter from hell, the poor dear deserves as much sunshine and fresh-grass smell as she can soak up.

Besides, I can’t complain. Things have been happily busy inside my walls. There’s been the usual, of course—plenty of soup and granola, with the occasional batch of cookies thrown in for good measure—but there have also been loaves of banana bread and lots of fresh oranges, some fun with radishes, and the first asparagus of the season. We’re both eagerly awaiting the opening of Evanston’s farmer’s market, but get this: Rose-Anne is going to be in frikkin’ California that day! The nerve of her! I mean seriously: how could she skip the market to go traipsing around wine country with Matt? It’s outrageous! I mean, I like Matt and all, I really do, but he’s a bad, bad influence on her. I’m not sure I can forgive him for this. The next time he’s here, he’d better watch for falling objects while he’s inside my walls.

To make up for this tragedy, Rose-Anne has been bringing me gifts. She gave me a new set of very thirsty towels, in gorgeous rainbow-hued colors, just perfect for drying the never-ending stream of dishes around here. She slipped a deep metal bowl into one of my cabinets, a necessary item for beating egg whites while making Orange Pudding Cake. She even bought me two avocadoes just because avocadoes are lovely. Wasn’t that nice of her?

But the best gift of all is one that Mother Nature has given me. I’m just flooded with sunlight these days as we get closer and closer to the summer solstice in June. My windows may be a bit dirty, but with the way my honey-colored floor glows, you won’t mind a bit of dirt. On the really nice days, Rose-Anne’s been opening the door that leads out of the kitchen onto the balcony. The warm air drifts inside, bringing with it the scent of fresh flowers and dirt and the sounds of children playing at the park. I just love spring.

This springtime madness has seeped into the cooking around here. Spring in Chicago can be a dodgy affair: a balmy 70 degrees one day, 40 degrees and rain the next. Some mornings it’s wool coat and scarf; other mornings it’s a light sweater, mostly because Rose-Anne likes her coat-ish sweaters. But the most obvious sign of the tussle between winter and spring is a funky, delicious salad that Rose-Anne has made multiple times in the last few weeks. It starts with a nice bed of crisp Romaine. A handful of broccoli slaw and thinly sliced radishes are next, topped by (this is the fun part) garlicky, spicy roasted potatoes. Finally a big spoonful of peanut sauce is dabbed strategically on top of the salad. Does it sound strange? It is, in a wonderful, perfectly satisfying way. Rose-Anne’s been eating it alongside a nice juicy orange and smiling in that smug, “I’m such a good cook” way of hers. I would drop something on her head just to wipe that obnoxious look off her face, but she did bring me two avocadoes, so maybe I’ll just leave her alone here.

In the meantime, dear reader, I hope your spring has been radiant and joyful. May your strawberries be fragrant and your greens crisp. And may your salads keep you satisfied, whether it feels more like spring or winter out there.

Rose-Anne’s Kitchen

Thai-Inspired Salad with Radishes and Roasted Potatoes
Inspired by Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott

This salad was inspired by the recipe for Muslim-Style Salad with Peanut Dressing in Nancie McDermott’s charming Real Vegetarian Thai. I liked the idea of eating a green salad with crispy potatoes and a spicy peanut dressing—it sounded cool and fresh, crispy and creamy, with bites of warm potato and nutty-spicy dressing to heat things up. I love making salads—there’s something very energizing about preparing fresh, raw ingredients, just you, your knife, and a chopping board covered with vegetables. And there’s nothing like a salad to invite you to taste and tweak to your heart’s content. Salads are all about improvisation.

To make this salad, you need a bit of time, enough to roast some potatoes for about 45-50 minutes. While the potatoes are going, have a snack and make the peanut sauce. After the potatoes are done and cooling, prep the remaining salad vegetables and enjoy a very tasty dinner as a reward for all your hard work.

Note that you’ll have enough potatoes for 2-3 salads and enough peanut sauce for many salads—at least 6-8, I’d say. Normally I’d apologize for giving you such lumpy amounts of leftovers, but there are so many delicious things to do with leftover potatoes and peanut sauce that I won’t say I’m sorry. Instead, I’ll just suggest a few ideas. For the potatoes, try folding them into scrambled eggs or as the base for some Ugly Chili Fries. The potatoes can be reheated in the oven at 350 degrees F for a few minutes. Cover them with foil if they are getting too brown. For the peanut sauce, toss it with noodles or add to vegetable soup for body and peanut flavor. Or use it as a dip with vegetables!

For the potatoes:

4 waxy, not-too-starchy medium potatoes, such as red-skinned potatoes or Yukon golds
1 tbsp. garlic-infused olive oil
1/8-1/4 tsp. McCormick Grill Mates Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning, or to taste
Salt to taste
Cooking spray

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Rinse and dry the potatoes. Peel any funky spots. Remove any eyes, sprouts, or other unwanteds. Slice in half lengthwise, then slice into thin half-moon wedges.
3) Place potatoes in a bowl. Toss with garlic oil. Toss with steak seasoning and salt.
4) Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Tumble the potatoes onto the baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until golden-brown and totally delicious-looking. After 20 minutes of baking, flip them over and move them around to help everything roast evenly.

For the peanut sauce:
Adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
Makes a generous 1/2 cup

1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. garlic-infused olive oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. rice vinegar

1) Place all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed.

Finally, for the salad:

For one salad, I use the following:
2 large leaves of Romaine lettuce
1 broccoli stalk’s worth of broccoli slaw (prep directions are below)
2 radishes
A handful of warm roasted potatoes (recipe above)
1 tbsp. peanut sauce (recipe above)
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. hot water

1) Tear the Romaine into bite-sized pieces and pile them onto a dinner plate.
2) To make the broccoli slaw, trim the rough outer layers of a broccoli stalk with vertical knife strokes down the stalk. Then use a box grater to grate the juicy inner stalk into shreds.
3) Trim the radishes and slice them into very thin rounds.
4) Pile the broccoli slaw and radishes onto the Romaine in alternating layers. Top with still-warm roasted potatoes.
5) Whisk the 1 tbsp. of peanut sauce with the rice vinegar and water. I do this to make a thinner sauce, which I think makes for a better salad dressing. Dab the peanut dressing in small blobs onto the salad in several places. Dig in!


Laurie said...

Oh, yum! Thanks for reminding me of the broccoli slaw. I haven't had any broccoli in the house lately, so I haven't had a chance to try slaw. There have been just too many other wickedly fresh,local green veggies available to consider broccoli just now. (Read asparagus, chard, kale, romaine, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, arugula, rapini...) Gosh, now I'm hungry!

Rosiecat said...

Laurie, you're making ME hungry! Local greens! Until the farmer's market opens, I won't be doing too much local eating, so until then, I'm just going to live vicariously through you ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love your kitchen's voice.


Rosiecat said...

Kitchen writes, "Ah, so I have a fan! Excellent! It's about time SOMEBODY around here appreciated me."

;-) Happy Friday, everyone!

ttfn300 said...

just like your kitchen, these days of sunlight are keeping me alive :) can't wait for our farmers markets to open, too! have a fabulous time in wine country ;)

Rosiecat said...

ttfn, I don't think anyone can appreciate spring as much as us Northerners! There's so much to make us giddy--I'm surprised I can get any work done at all these days! ;-)

I hope to send your prize this week. I'm so sorry it's taken me so damn long to get around to it--you've been very patient!