According to Robin Williams: Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ Everything jumps back to life. It is nature’s rebirth and special ingredients that we haven’t seen for a while become available. There are many harbingers of Spring. Below are some of my favorites.
Asparagus has a special place for me. I have fond memories of wild asparagus growing up on my Grandparents ranch in Colorado. The ranch was at about 8000 feet and winters were harsh at that altitude. Seeing wild asparagus pop up, usually in early to mid-April, was a sure sign that the weather was finally going to warm up and summer was on the horizon. My Grandmother and I would pick the wild asparagus and eat much of its raw right on the spot. If you have never eaten just picked asparagus (raw or cooked), it has a delicious sweet/green flavor. Just make sure it’s as close to harvest as possible. Its sweet flavor fades quickly after harvest.
GRILLED ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH PANCETTA AND EGG
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-pound medium asparagus, tough base discarded
6 ounces pancetta cut 1/4 inch thick and diced
Spring salad (description follows)
3 Soft Center hard boiled eggs (recipe follows)
Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice, mustard, honey, and shallot. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
Brush the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. On a hot grill or with a ridged grill pan cook the asparagus until nicely marked but still crisp tender, about 4 minutes depending on thickness. Set aside.
Over medium heat add the pancetta to a sauté pan with remaining tablespoon of oil and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes or so. Drain on paper towels.
Toss the herb salad with the vinaigrette. Arrange asparagus on plates topped with the dressed herb salad, pancetta, half an egg and some shaved cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper and serve.
A salad of baby greens, endive and sweet herbs is delicate and needs to be dressed just before serving. Use whatever you like. Here is a suggestion: 3 handfuls of baby lettuces, 1 small endive, 1 small handful frisée, young nasturtium leaves, parsley, mint, basil (all small or torn) plus a few celery leaves from the center of a bunch.
Soft center hard boiled eggs:
Lower 3 large organic eggs into a small saucepan of boiling water. Simmer for exactly 8 minutes. Remove eggs and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When the eggs are cool, tap the shells to crack them. This allows the cold water to seep between the eggs and shell making them easy to peel. Cut in half. If you like a softer yolk, cut cooking time by 30 seconds or more.
This article was published in the Santa Rosa Press Telegram on 4-21-21