Although this salad is great and all, I have to say that all I really want to post today is an exhortation that the next time you eat watermelon, you spritz a little meyer lemon over it. Since that’s not a recipe I am forcing myself to be a little more creative, but still…flick off some chunks of watermelon with a spoon, squeeze half a meyer lemon over the pile (very important that it be meyer! or at least a little important; they’re flowery instead of puckery), and then eat it all.
Anyways, this is good too.
It’s spring in socal, and that means there’s a rush at the farmers market for fava beans. I wish I knew when these became sexy beans–you never see anyone this excited about kidneys–but I do know that if you hang around your house until noon and then head to the market expecting to purchase some fava beans then you’ve biffed majorly. I managed to snag a handful, but it was a sad handful, the amputated pods that no one else wants. So that changed my plan, which had been to make a fava bean salad. Instead, I found some pretty slender asparagus and went with that. Having been forced into a zone of innovation, I treated the asparagus differently than I usually do. I sliced off the tips and boiled them very quickly with the small handful of favas. Then I shredded the asparagus stems on my mandolin, the finest setting, so that I ended up with a slivery mesh of asparagus green. This I left raw.
This salad is inspired by David Tanis’s recipe in A Platter of Figs, which is a beautiful cookbook with matte pages and vague instructions. I usually try to be explicit in my recipes, but since I’m riffing on someone else I’ll be vague too–and vague is probably ok with a recipe like this. Basically, you want veggies that are in season, and that you like, and you want to put a little olive oil, salt and pepper on them. I dressed up this salad in the interest of making it appropriate for lunch, but you don’t have to–pine nuts and parmesan are optional (but delicious, as always). If you’re serving this alongside a sandwich, or some grilled meats, or a pasta dish, feel free to aim for simplicity. Asparagus, arugula, mint–that’s just fine. Or you could do as I did and eat almost all the resulting salad with a hunk of bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted for a few moments. Makes almost as good a lunch as watermelon.
Asparagus and Arugula Salad
inspired by A Platter of Figs
serves 4 as a side salad (1 or 2 as a main dish)
1 bunch of asparagus
one additional vegetable: a handful of fava beans, depodded, a fennel bulb or fresh artichoke, slivered thinly
1 small bunch of arugula (or two handfuls of baby arugula)
1 T sliced scallion
2 T sliced mint leaves
salad quality olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T pine nuts, toasted in a frypan or at 350 for 3 minutes or so, until fragrant
parmesan cheese, thinly sliced (optional)
Boil up a small pot of water and drop in a handful of kosher salt. Slice off the asparagus stems and toss them in the water along with the depodded fava beans, if you’re using them. Stir and cook for just 30 seconds, then drain and lay out the asparagus tips and beans on a cloth to cool and dry. Once the fava beans are cool, shell them (I use my thumb nail to pierce the shell, then squeeze out the bean, which often splits in two).
With a mandolin, very thinly slice the asparagus stems (you can do this with a knife too, of course). I kept the rubber bands around the bunch of asparagus and this helped me to slice them all at once. You’ll have to rotate the bunch once in a while, but it works. Keep slicing until you get a couple inches from the bottom, at which point you’ll notice that the asparagus is getting woody and the mandolin is catching on tougher strands. Discard these asparagus bottoms (or stash them in the freezer for stock, or for asparagus risotto). If you’re using artichokes or fennel bulbs, thinly slice them as well with the mandolin. Sweep your stack of thin veggies into a big bowl and add the asparagus tips and fava beans.
Spritz a lemon over the veggies–I used very little, probably 1/2 t or so. Then add the mint and scallion and drizzle amply with olive oil (2-3 T, I’d say). Add salt to taste–I used 1/4 t of coarse fleur de sel–and some fresh pepper. Add the arugula and mix together with your hands until everything is well dressed. Taste a spoonful to check for seasonings.
Serve it like this out of the big bowl, or make composed salad plates: pluck out a handful of the dressed arugula and form a bed on the salad plate. Then spoon some asparagus mixture over it (the asparagus and arugula are mixed together at this point of course, but the asparagus always settles to the bottom). Strew some pine nuts over the salad, and top with a few slices of parmesan. It’s a very pretty salad.