I am ready for winter to be over. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of winter weather, which in Northern California means rain, but I am more than ready for that rain to go away. I feel bad saying that, because I know that the rain has been much needed, but I can't help it, I'm ready for spring. And after living in a house with no heat all winter, I'm most of all ready to be warm again.
Last week it felt like we had skipped spring altogether and had fast forwarded in to summer. The days were verging on hot, the sky was clear blue and I began to feel re-energized by the sun. Yet here I am a week later, looking out the window at a gentle sheet of rain falling down. But I don't want to continue to complain about the rain, so instead I'm going to pretend it's spring outside. One of the ways I'll do that is by enjoying some asparagus, a springtime vegetable, in this salad. The fresh and bright flavors of the salad will help me realize that spring is (hopefully) just around the corner.
Trim 2 bunches of asparagus, and then cut the spears into about 2 inch pieces, or whatever looks like good bite size amounts to you. Boil some salted water and toss the asparagus in there. You only need to cook them for about a minute or two, they should still be a little crisp.
The dressing for this salad couldn't get any simpler, it's just mustard and lemon juice. So flavorful though, and really all that's needed. The recipe called for Dijon mustard, but alll I had on hand was some spicy brown so I went with that.The lemon juice and the mustard get whisked together and that's it, the dressing is done! All that's left to do is prep the rest of the ingredients. Red onion gets thinly sliced:
Along with some basil. If you don't know how to slice basil into those thin little ribbons you usually see it in, don't worry, it's real simple. Roll up a few basil leaves at a time in to as tight of a little bundle as possible. Hold on to it with one hand, and slice across the bundle width-wise to create thin little slices of basil. Something like this:
Can I tell you how much I adore basil? The smell is to die for. Other fresh herbs would be very welcome in this salad. I however did not have any others on hand. That was ok with me though, because did I mention that I love basil?
Next ingredient is some feta cheese.
And finally, the pine nuts. I also adore pine nuts. They're even better when they're toasted in a pan until you can smell them and they start to turn golden brown. Be careful though! If you don't watch them closely they have a real tendency to burn quickly.
All these ingredients, including the asparagus and dressing, get a quick toss together and you've got a bowl of springtime ready to enjoy.
Adapted from Sunset, June 2009
2 pounds thick asparagus, cut into 2-in. pieces
2 tablespoons each fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup each chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, cilantro)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Drop asparagus into water and cook until bright green and slightly softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain asparagus and rinse with very cold water until cool to the touch.
In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, oil, and herbs. Add asparagus, onion, pine nuts, feta, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.