Besides the fact that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, spring always reminds me of my mom. She would get so excited at each little indication of spring from under the gray blanket of Seattle winter; the first tulip emerging from the soil, the fluffy pink cherry blossoms and blooming dogwood trees were all celebrated with as much gusto as us kids celebrated the first snow storm.
This is the perfect spring brunch dish that I know my mom would have loved. A tender cake of asparagus and potatoes, held together by a light batter of eggs, olive oil and a little flour with some baking powder for lift. The cake can be cut into squares and eaten warm or room temperature and would probably be quite excellent in a sandwich or wrap for lunch on Monday.
It was inspired by the traditional Spanish tortilla Española, a rich, olive oil-infused potato omelet and Ottolenghi’s genius cauliflower cake. You could swap out the potatoes and asparagus for any cooked vegetables; steamed asparagus, broccoli, caramelized onions, butternut squash, fennel, sweet potatoes, wilted greens like spinach, Swiss chard or kale, sautéed mushrooms, etc.
I have a feeling you could use chickpea flour instead of the all-purpose flour, or tinker around with a mixture of gluten-free flours if that’s your thing. You could top the cake with cheese, but it certainly doesn’t need it. What makes the dish sing though is a generous drizzle of zesty salsa verde.
This isn’t the tomatillo-based version you may be familiar with on your enchiladas. This sauce is a riff on the classic Italian salsa verde, packed with fresh herbs, lemon, capers, Dijon mustard and olive oil. The secret ingredient is fish sauce; it brings salty, umami-packed flavor that rounds out the sauce and doesn’t make it taste the least bit fishy.
This sauce would be fantastic on any steamed vegetable, or even grilled salmon or chicken. Actually, my fiancé loves it so much he told me he would drink it by itself, which I can’t say I recommend.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom! This one’s for you xoxo
Asparagus & Potato Cake with Salsa Verde
Serves 8 generously
For the salsa verde:
2 cups chopped Chinese chives or green onions (about 2 bunches)
1 bunch cilantro or parsley (leaves and stems)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons brined capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fish sauce
For the cake:
1 bunch asparagus
2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
8 large eggs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the salsa verde, place all the ingredients in a blender. Puree until very smooth, adjusting the consistency with water as necessary to form a thick, yet pourable sauce. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon juice and fish sauce as desired. The salsa verde will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
For the cake, trim the tough ends of the asparagus and cut into 1-inch lengths. Place in a steamer basket over simmering water and cook for 5 minutes, until bright green and tender; remove to a plate and set aside. Leaving the skin on, slice the potatoes into ¼-inch slices and steam for 10-12 minutes, until tender and set aside.
In a blender, combine the eggs, olive oil, flour, salt and baking powder. Whip until completely smooth and frothy. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8×8-inch baking dish liberally with olive oil. Arrange the asparagus and potatoes in the dish, then pour over the batter. Bake until a skewer comes out clean and the top is lightly browned, about 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving with the salsa verde. Alternatively, the cake can be made several hours in advance and served at room temperature. Leftovers will keep for 3 days, refrigerated.