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Local produce star of this potato salad

Red potato, green bean and bacon salad.David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Potatoes should be sliced into four sections.David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

We love to find our inspiration locally whenever possible, and after a recent trip to a local farmer's market we came home with a lovely assortment of fresh veggies, including a large bag of baby red potatoes that were just begging to be turned into a new dish. With fresh green beans and scallions also in our haul, I knew we had the components of a great potato salad. Add some crispy bacon and a zesty Dijon vinaigrette, and voila, this week's recipe for Red Potato, Green Bean and Bacon Salad was born.

When creating a new recipe, we consider several factors to determine the best combination of ingredients. First, we look to the season. All of the produce featured in this recipe came from local farms, at the same time, so we knew they would work well together. As Tony likes to say, "What grows together, goes together."

Next, we consider the color, flavor and texture of each ingredient. Potatoes can be very bland in appearance, so whenever possible we like to leave the skin on for extra color. Eating the whole potato is the best way to receive all of its nutritional value, and the skin on baby red potatoes is thin and delicate, making it ideal for a salad. We cook the potatoes until they are just fork tender, meaning that a fork should be able to slide gently in and out of the potato, without breaking it.

Green beans complement the red and white of the potatoes and bring a gentle crunch to the dish. Blanching them first for two to three minutes in boiling water brightens their color and helps achieve a barely tender texture. Bacon brings terrific flavor to this dish as well as a bit of crunch, and for this salad we prefer to cook our bacon until very crispy. Scallions, also called green onions, have a milder spice and texture than other onions, and work especially well with potatoes.

A flavorful vinaigrette really makes this salad sing, and this one is a simple combination of Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, kosher salt and black pepper. For best results, I let the sliced scallions marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 15 to 20 minutes before adding to the salad, which helps to temper their heat and infuse the dressing with even more flavor.

Dijon mustard is often used to make a vinaigrette, not only for its tangy flavor, but also because it is a great emulsifier. The mucilage, a thick, sticky substance naturally found in the mustard seed, works to keep the oil and vinegar from separating, thus creating an emulsion. Adding the vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm helps them to absorb the most flavor.

This potato salad has everything going for it - it's easy to make, full of flavor and will keep well in the refrigerator for at least five days. And, it's full of summer flavor. Enjoy!

Red Potato, Green Bean and Bacon Salad

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

3 pounds baby red potatoes, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-inch pieces with skin on

½ pound green beans, ends trimmed, blanched then cut into 1-inch pieces

6 pieces cooked bacon, roughly chopped

1 bunch of scallions (green onions), sliced into thin rounds (remove the roots & top inch of greens)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 to 4 tablespoons cider vinegar, start with 2 and increase for more acidity if desired

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Fill a large pot with the potatoes and cover with water to one inch above the potatoes. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and set potatoes aside.

Fill a medium or large pot with water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt; bring to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch until barely tender and bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer beans immediately to an ice bath to cool, then drain water and dry beans on paper towels. When cool, cut into 1-inch pieces.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, use a whisk to combine the olive oil with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Add the mustard, salt and pepper and whisk until fully emulsified. Taste and add more vinegar if desired, one tablespoon at a time. Stir in the sliced scallions and let vinaigrette rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half lengthwise, then across into half-inch pieces. Place cut potatoes in a large mixing bowl, and add the green beans and chopped bacon, then follow with the scallion vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine.

Best if refrigerated at least one hour before serving, or overnight if possible. May be refrigerated for at least 5 days.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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