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Arugula Potato Salad

My vegetable garden continues to supply me with enough arugula to open an arugula restaurant. As you know from my previous post, I like to sauté it in garlic and olive oil — just add cooked beans and pasta (or rice) and dinner is served. I’ve also made some great arugula pesto, which, in addition to tossing with pasta, is also good slathered on grilled bruschetta or transformed into a salad dressing. But I think my favorite way to enjoy it is in the Arugula Potato Salad recipe from Vegan Fire and Spice.

In this recipe, cooked potatoes and roasted red bell peppers combine with chopped arugula and a snappy dressing made with garlic, capers, and a touch of cayenne. It’s easy to make, colorful, and loaded with flavor. It makes a great side dish for anything from veggie burgers to seitan “parmesan” — I actually served it with both, so I know from whence I speak. If you add a little extra arugula and a cup of cooked cannellini beans or chickpeas, it can even be enjoyed as a main-dish salad.

The cayenne in the dressing adds just the slightest nuance of heat. If you prefer a spicier salad, you can add some hot red pepper flakes or even add a minced hot chile. And as every garlic lover knows, you can always add more garlic to the dressing.

Some shortcut tips: In the original recipe, the potatoes are cooked on the stovetop and the bell peppers roasted over a flame. Since I had planned to make this salad the night before, and I already had the oven on for something else, I tossed some potatoes in the oven to bake for the salad. Instead of roasting my own bell peppers, I used the jarred kind. (You could also roast your own in advance.) With the potatoes already cooked from the night before, and the roasted peppers from a jar, the salad only took minutes to assemble.

Arugula Potato Salad
This recipe is adapted from Vegan Fire and Spice.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups lightly packed arugula, coarsely chopped

1. Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. (Alternately, you can steam the potatoes over boiling water or roast them on an oiled baking sheet. You can also bake the potatoes and dice them after baking.) Place the cooked potatoes in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Roast the red peppers over an open flame or broil about 4 inches from the heat, turning until the skins are completely blackened. Put the charred peppers into a paper bag and let steam for about 5 minutes to loosen the skins. Scrape off the blackened skin and remove the seeds and stems. Chop the peppers into 1/2-inch dice, and add them to the potatoes. (Alternately, to save time, you can use jarred roasted red bell peppers.)
3. Mince the garlic and capers in a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice, cayenne, and salt, to taste, and process until well blended. Slowly add the olive oil to emulsify. Add the dressing to the potatoes along with the arugula and toss until coated.

Sausage Sandwich and Potato Salad Redux

I’ve been waxing nostalgic lately, and with the cookout season officially underway, I recalled how my dad used to love to fire up the grill when I was a kid. Grilling, along with the occasional pancake supper, were the only times Dad would do the cooking. Instead of the usual hamburgers or hotdogs, however, my Italian father preferred to grill spicy sausage and peppers which were served in warm crusty rolls, often accompanied by my mother’s potato salad.

Fast forward a zillion years to my vegan versions of these family favorites. The potato salad is an easy do-over, since I just needed to swap out Vegenaise for the mayo and omit the hard-cooked eggs that my mother habitually added to her potato salad (double helping of cholesterol, anyone?). At the last minute, I diced a ripe avocado that I needed to use up and added it to the salad, and I’m glad I did. The avocado was a nice counterpoint to the pimiento-stuffed green olives that are requisite in my Close to Mom’s Potato Salad (below) adapted from Vegan Planet.

For the sausage, I used a recipe from one of my upcoming cookbooks (sorry, I can’t share that recipe just yet) in which I come close to the seasonings in my family’s sausage recipe. To cook the sausage, I used a variation of the steaming method I learned when I used to make seafood sausages as an omni restaurant chef — we’d shape the delicate seafood mixture into logs and wrap them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before steaming. For the vegan sausage I just use the aluminum foil.

Many years ago I saw a similar method used for making seitan sausage in an old cookbook and it does work fine, although I thought the resulting texture could have been firmer. My own take on that method (which I think produces a better texture) is a steam/bake combination where I shape the sausage or seitan into patties or logs and wrap them in foil, then place the “packages” in a baking dish. I then add water to the baking dish about halfway up the sides, cover the entire baking dish tightly with foil, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how thick the seitan or sausage is). After baking, I remove them from the pan and let them cool. Then they’re ready to sauté (or grill) to give them a nice browned color on the outside. (I’ll post the actual recipe soon.)

To approximate the great Italian rolls my family used to enjoy, I defrosted some frozen pizza dough, divided it into quarters that I shaped into logs and baked for about 15 minutes. After cooling for a minute, I sliced them open, added the sausage and peppers, and served up a taste from my childhood — vegan-style. It’s definitely not a low-cal, low-carb, or low-fat meal, but, hey, at least it’s cholesterol-free and a delicious indulgence for a cookout.

Close to Mom’s Potato Salad
Adapted from Vegan Planet. I used small red-skinned potatoes and left the skin on. To this recipe, I also added a diced avocado, making it a little less close to Mom’s version!

1 1/2 pounds small waxy potatoes
1 celery rib, minced
2 tablespoons grated onion, or to taste (optional)
1/3 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/3 to 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise)
1 to 2 tablespoons soy milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paprika, for garnish

1. Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water, until tender but still firm. Drain and allow to cool, then cut them into bite-size chunks, and place them in a large bowl. Add the celery, onion (if using), and olives and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the vegan mayonnaise, soy milk mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and add to the potato mixture, stirring gently to combine. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.