Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The Gifts of Spring
Spring shows her face in different ways around the world. In the Northern hemisphere it can be cold, windy, rainy, snowy, warm, foggy, or even hot. We started out this spring with duck weather; a good half inch fell today and is greatly appreciated since our weather since January has been drier than normal. I love it that I can go out tomorrow and have an easier time weeding. Since I keep talking about it you probably think that I've weeded acres by now, but the truth is I can only do about an hour of weeding a day (still getting my strength back) so it is ongoing.
One of the gifts of spring is asparagus. We have been eating it almost daily now that the price is reasonable. Usually we just steam it or put the spears on the grill for quick cooking. Today I used two other gifts of spring to make a stunning composed salad. Our across-the-street neighbors gifted us with fresh, pale blue shelled chicken eggs from their own chicken coop. Sweetie could tell you a tale about herding chickens for them and low hanging eaves in the coop, but since he survived to tell the tale, you'll have to ask him what happened. The same neighbors gave us a bag of freshly picked mixed salad greens. All of these combined to make a lovely salad.
A couple of years ago I read a recipe by our excellent local food writer, Michele Anna Jordan, where she used softly cooked eggs to top lightly dressed salad greens. She also combined asparagus and scrambled eggs. I sort of took those and mixed them together and cooked the eggs as over-easy ones. You still get the runny yolks like the soft cooked eggs, but now it is running over both the greens and the cooked and warm asparagus. I threw in some roasted golden beets that were waiting in the fridge and made a very simple vinaigrette. I kept the shaved Parmesan and really liked the interplay of soft with crunchy, warm with cold and the variety of flavors, too. I plated the salad into big, red soup bowls and it make quite an impressive presentation.
I think the trick to making this recipe work is timing...and excellent ingredients. If possible, use farm fresh eggs, high quality salad greens, and fresh asparagus that still have tightly closed tips. Have the asparagus ready to steam or microwave, the salad greens washed and dried, the chunk of Parmesan ready to shave, and the beet slices and dressing ready to go. Have the pan, butter, and eggs ready at the stove. It all goes together quickly after that, so have everyone ready to sit down to this dish as soon as possible after it is plated. I only made two servings. I think one could make four and still get it all plated quickly. Beyond that things that should be warm might get cold.
Spring Salad with Asparagus, Beets and Fried Egg
6-8 spears asparagus, ends trimmed
3-4 cups fresh mixed salad greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
one beet, roasted until tender, skin removed, sliced into at least 6 slices and chilled
2 eggs, farm fresh if possible
a chunk of Parmesan cheese to shave about 1 tablespoon from
vinaigrette - recipe below
Place prepared asparagus in a steamer or microwave steamer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl toss the mixed greens with 2/3 of the vinaigrette to lightly coat. Add the beet slices and toss to coat them with the vinaigrette. Portion half of the dressed greens in each of two large salad plates or bowls. Top with the dressed beet slices, at least 3 per portion.
Fry the two eggs in a skillet or cast iron frying pan, using a bit of melted butter to keep them from sticking. While the eggs are cooking, steam the asparagus until barely tender.
Flip the eggs to cook the tops of the yolk briefly. Place the steamed asparagus on top of the dressed greens in the middle of the plate or bowl, dividing them between the servings. Top the asparagus with the eggs, one egg per serving. Use the tip of the spatula to break the yolk so it runs over the asparagus. Shave some Parmesan over each salad (about 1/2 tablespoon each). Serve at once.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon type mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to emulsify and combine completely. Taste and adjust to your taste (you might want more lemon juice for instance, or more pepper).