May 24th, 2015

Return from Gypsy Life, and a Late Spring Potato-Pea Salad


I had forgotten how it is, when I travel by car for any length of time. In mere days, the rhythm of the road takes over as the rhythm of life, marked off in mile posts and fuel stops, Best Western Motels and Starbucks coffees, paced by the hospitality of friends and family along the way.

Thoughts and cares of my own home fade. What is present becomes my focus–the endless flat stretches of highway through Kansas prairie, the shifting views of snow-capped Rockies in mist, the blue skies over Utah, wide and deep, dotted with lolling cotton clouds, the pink and white oleanders, heavy in bloom, spilling over the median on the California freeway.


Driving away from the day-to-day takes you to new places in the mind. For me, it brings up the curious mix of lives not claimed, and yet, the pervasive connection of all life.

What if the barren high desert of Nevada was the place I called home? Can I imagine life on a lone ranch, miles from neighbors? “Choosing this life sends out roads to earn their way without us.”

And then there’s the wonder of connection. My cousins and I see one other rarely, and yet the warm familial love doesn’t care about the years. It time jumps. Hanging out in the kitchen, making food for the book event, talking and laughing…we’ve never been apart.

Here’s another one: On the morning of the book signing, my cousin Jeanne got an email from a woman named Nancy H. Turns out she used to play bridge with my aunt, AND she is a long-time follower of my blog. It wasn’t until she read my last post with the invitation that she made the connection. She came to book signing, and we got to meet. How amazing is that?


That theme continued on our journey. In Berkeley, a friend from high school days–again someone I’ve seen little of over 40 years– helped me get ready for the signing at Pegasus Books. We shopped at the Berkeley Bowl together. I made Cornbread Panzanella in her kitchen.

And, at the Pegasus signing itself: Gerlinde of Sunny Cove Chef took the sweet notion to drive up from Santa Cruz to attend. We’ve virtually met through our blogs, now we’ve really met. The power of the web. The power of connections.


Five thousand miles, and we’re back home. Bill and I thought that everything looked fine, but felt different. We wandered from room to room, detached from our place. We’d taken up the gypsy life and hadn’t switched back into our old and familiar ways.

There’s nothing like preparing a meal in your own kitchen, sharing it with friends, to get you grounded. I’m getting there.

For today’s dish, I rummaged the fridge and pantry—found viable potatoes, beets,and green onions…green peas in the freezer. I snipped arugula and thyme from the yard.

It was kind of a throw-together, but it worked. Roasting the veggies, coating them in mustardy sweet-sour marinade, pulsing tangy arugula into the vinaigrette combined to make a delicious late spring salad.


2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 ” slices
3 medium beets, cleaned
1 cup olive oil, divided
kosher or sea salt
2 cups small green peas, frozen
1 bundle green onions, divided
8 ounces fresh arugula
1/2 cup, divided white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup coarse grain mustard
black pepper
1 bunch fresh thyme
3-4 strips crumbled bacon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On one sheet pan, place the sliced potatoes. Pour about 1/4 cup oil over the slices, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

One another sheet pan lined with foil or parchment, place the beets. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and place into the preheated 425 degree oven to roast for 25-30 minutes.

Place the peas into a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer on low heat, cooking the peas until tender, but still with bright green pop. Remove from heat, drain and cool.

Chop two greens onions and pick 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves. Stir into the peas and set aside.

Remove potatoes from baking pan. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard. Stir up any crusty bits into the sauce. Pour over the potatoes.

Remove the beets and allow to cool. Peel and slice into rounds. Splash with 1 tablespoon vinegar and set aside.


Make the Arugula Thyme Vinaigrette:
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard, 3 chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, and 1 cup arugula leaves. Pulse until chopped together, then process, pouring in the 1/2 cup olive oil, a little at a time.

Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Place a bed of arugula onto the base of the salad bowl. Place a ring of marinated potato slices, followed by a ring of sliced pickled beets, finished with a mound of peas. Dot the salad with little pours of the green vinaigrette. Sprinkle bacon bits over the salad if desired.

Serves 10-12


Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

14 Responses to “Return from Gypsy Life, and a Late Spring Potato-Pea Salad”
  1. ernestine Says:

    Has been many years since this one wandered far from home and now content here by the woods.
    Wecome home to your home :)
    The salad looks so good…

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, Ernestine. I am getting into the groove of being back!

  3. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    What a wonderful and gratifying trip that must have been.
    Welcome home, and thanks for the great recipe in honor of your homecoming.

  4. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Welcome Home Nance (and Bill). There is nothing as fine as getting in a car and driving across the USA. I have done it quite a few times and each trip makes me so aware of how much “there” is there. Some of the great pleasures of my life have been such road trips…stopping along the way, meandering off the grid of the interstate highway system simply for the pleasure of discovery.
    You were lucky to find such edibles still edible after such a long trip! I usually clean out the crisper as I have often found more science experiment material than actual food upon our return! This salad is lovely and nutritious and perfect for winding down and back into your groove. So happy your trip went well.

  5. Tammy Says:

    Oh how I adore a road trip! Thanks for these descriptions of yours. I love the look of this salad Nancy and always appreciate you including a recipe for the dressing. Hope the world loves your book as much as we do.

  6. Caroline Trost Says:

    Yum, this recipe looks wonderful! I just got beets from my CSA and was looking for a new recipe to use them in! Thank you!

  7. Barbara Says:

    Road trips are so much fun and I love stopping here and there, such a pleasure. Yes, much to be said for a gypsy life! You have to have a partner who enjoys it too, however. So many don’t.
    Glad you’re back, pleased you had such a great time and your salad looks like it hit the spot!

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Michele—Great to hear from you–Thanks so much—hope all is well.

    Terese–I was surprised to find anything worth eating—but the root vegetables were still okay—and there was still enough good on the green onions after I cut away all the dessicated parts!

    HI Tammy–Thanks for your kind words. I think you’ll like this salad, or a riff on it.

    Hi Caroline–I hope you like this.

    Thanks Barbara! Yes, I’m fortunate that Bill enjoys this kind of travel.

  9. Gerlinde Says:

    Hi Nancy, it was so much fun meeting you in Berkley. My girlfriend and I had a wonderful time . I love your book. Your salad looks great, it shows that you are a creative and talented cook that always can find something to work with. Let’s stay in touch!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Gerlinde–thanks again for coming, a highlight of the event–we will definitely stay in touch.

  11. heather Says:

    Thank you Nancy, a beautiful salad to add to my list!

  12. Kath Says:

    What an adventure and an opportunity to think about the bigger things. I have been day dreaming about driving through some of America recently. I am reading a book called Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers by Janie Hibler which is a wonderful mix of recipes and history and makes me yearn for a journey such as yours. I hope you settle back into the old routine soon, or if not, take another adventure.

  13. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Kath–After a rocky week, I am settling. But I won’t wait so long again for another big adventure. I don’t mind gypsy life!

  14. Beth Says:

    Your salad looks absolutely gorgeous. Sounds like you had an amazing road trip!

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