Magical gardening elves and snap pea potato salad.

We have magical elves for neighbors, I’m sure of it.  Magical gardening elves.  Because every day, on my way out of town, I stop at their shed on the side of the road and find fresh snap peas, or potatoes, or whatever’s been picked the day before. And my neighbors are not just magical elves because they grow and offer this stuff (lots of people have front-yard farm stands around here), they are magical elves because their food tastes magical. Take a look at this pea, for example.

It’s plump, sweet, and fresh-tasting.  I couldn’t even take the picture without stealing a pea first.  My neighbors’ sugar snap peas are better than any I’ve tasted from farm markets, let alone supermarkets.  And once a few weeks go by, the elves will start to put out heirloom tomatoes meaty and bursting with sweetly acidic flavor.  These tomatoes were what made Jim and me wonder last year, when we just moved into town, if we could ever leave.

This potato salad, made with snap peas and potatoes from my magical neighbors, and fresh herbs from my own puny attempts at gardening (why try, when you have gardening elves?), is the kind of potato salad that you can fool people into thinking is healthy.  Very green, full of herbs and peas, it’s almost as if it doesn’t contain a healthy dollop of olive oil and a couple pats of butter. (Unless you are set on making a healthy potato salad, don’t leave out the butter; it melds all the flavors together and keeps it from becoming one of those ultra-vinegary potato salads—the type that make you long for some good mayonnaise.)

Use basil and chives if you can, because the basil plays up the sweetness in the peas, and chives work wonders for boiled potatoes.  You must pour the vinaigrette on before the potatoes cool and don’t be alarmed if it soaks into the potatoes before you can say mum, it’s supposed to happen that way.  Those potatoes will take on the sharp flavor of the wine vinegar, and be better for it.  It’s okay that it seems too dry, that’s why you add the butter. The end product — with the butter and everything mashed up a bit — is soft, creamy, and rich, with a background kick. Bring it to your next barbecue.  You can even tell everyone it’s healthy, I’ll keep the secret.

Snap Pea Potato Salad

The measurements here aren’t exact, I’m using volume because I didn’t weigh the peas and potatoes.  You can tinker with the measurements if you like.

1 quart snap peas, string removed
1 quart new potatoes, washed
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
pat or two of butter
basil, to taste
chives, to taste
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and a few pinches of salt.  Boil until potatoes are firm-tender, adding the snap peas into the water during the last minute or two.  Drain and transfer potatoes and peas to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette:  In a small bowl or measuring cup, add shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt, a few grindings of fresh black pepper, and mustard.  Add vinegar and whisk with a fork.  Add a drop of olive oil and whisk, adding a few more drops as you whisk.  If the vinaigrette is starting to emulsify, you can add the rest of the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is creamy, otherwise keep adding olive oil in drops until it emulsifies.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour vinaigrette over hot potatoes. Immediately stir to combine.  Stir in basil and chives and, once the vinaigrette has absorbed, stir in butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (it can take a lot of both.)

19 thoughts on “Magical gardening elves and snap pea potato salad.”

  1. One of the (many) things I really like about your blog is that you are always a few weeks ahead of me in produce. My peas won’t be ready until mid-July but already I know that I’ll be trying this out.

  2. This was the wrong thing to read at this time in the morning – wrong because now I have to make this salad NOW! I am on my way out to check on my peas – I don’t think there is much to harvest yet but the potatoes are almost ready and I steal a few from the edges of each plant whenever I can’t wait any longer; the plants still keep on growing and the final yield is hardly affected. The mint is growing well too and the smell …….. bye!

  3. I wish I had gardening elves next door, if only for some tomatoes…

    Great non-mayonnaise potato salad. Can always use more of those!

  4. Ha! Yes, that’s an awesome pea. And I concur with Wendy — my snap peas are blossoming right now. I can’t wait til they’re ready so I can make this potato salad. I’d never thought that basil would bring out the flavor in the peas, and now I want to find out!

  5. I agree, I want to see what basil does to peas, but I’m blocking the pea picture from my mind, because I don’t think I can get hold of any. I’ll have to use frozen — eek!

    On a really prosaic note, why do you boil water and then put the potatoes in? I put them in warm water & heat them together, for the sake of speed. Am I bad?

    Does Muntz get to try any of this stuff?

    1. The basil doesn’t do things to the pea like mint would–much quieter than that. But I love it. Similar to what lettuce does, I guess.

      Your way of making potatoes is fine; I do it that way sometimes. But pre-boiling the water makes me feel more in control, knowing the water is boiling temp throughout the cooking time. I do the same thing for hard-boiled eggs, though in that case I think it’s way more important to be in control.

      Muntz mainly wants to try chicken, we give him the bones. I think he did stick his head in the bowl, though.

  6. I have a magic fava bean from New Orleans, blessed on the altar of St. Joseph… not quite the same though, eh? Fantastic photography, just breathtaking. And the salad — perfect for a weekend of outdoor festivities, I think. Thanks for the lovely descriptions of why each ingredient was included — I agree with you on all, especially the butter. Your writing is lyrical and it has a nice mouthfeel too! 🙂

  7. i love this. sugar snap peas and peas are my favorite thing to eat fresh. thank you for adding the butter – i was thinking that was needed to bring it all together.

  8. I have a whole lot of potatoes and didn’t know what to do with them! i was tired of makingthe same old things, but this salad sounds delicious. now if only i could find some really good peas!

  9. First of all, I love the way pea pods photography, don’t you?
    This potato salad looks so fresh and delicious! Wish I had your magical elf neighbors nearby!

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