Boiled vegetables used to tell a dreary tale. Cooked until they were limp and lifeless, they were reminiscent of comatose institutional food. Surely they were the reason many of my friends spent their childhoods as veg-phobics.
But the technique I learned as an apprentice in France gives vegetables vigor like no other. In fact, it is my favorite way of preparing asparagus: plain and simple. Just a brief swim in well-salted bubbling water followed by an iced-cold dunk brings out the vivid green color while preserving texture, nutrients, and flavor.
This gorgeous vegan salad, abundant with meatless protein, mingles emerald-colored asparagus with white beans, carrot coins, fresh corn, and vibrant herbs. It is as much at home on a family table as it would be in a picnic basket or at an elegant banquet. The vinaigrette has subtle sweet and spicy undertones that would suit any summer salad. Master this technique and boiled vegetables will never be outlawed again.
Serves 4 – 6
1 bunch (about 24) medium or thick asparagus
A large handful of Kosher salt
White Bean Salad
2 corn cobs, husks removed but not discarded
2 very thin carrots, peeled and sliced into small coins
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney (cannellini) beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 sprigs of tarragon, leaves chopped
1/8 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup rice wine (or champagne) vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup walnut or grapeseed oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Trim the tough, stringy part of the asparagus by lining up the tips on a cutting board and cutting off about 2 inches from the ends. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a generous handful of salt and return to a boil. You should be able to taste the salt in the water. Have ready a bowl of ice water.
2. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook until they are crisp but tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and dry the asparagus and set aside.
3. In the same pot, drop the corn husks and corn into the boiling water and cook briefly until just tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove the corn with a slotted spoon and place on a cutting board. Cut the corn from the cobs and add to a medium mixing bowl. Repeat the process for the carrots, cooking until soft, about 3 minutes.
4. In the bowl with the corn and carrots, combine the white beans, walnuts, tarragon and chives; set aside.
5. Prepare the Maple-Jalapeño Vinaigrette: In a small bowl. mix together the vinegar, maple syrup, shallot, and jalapeño pepper. Whisk in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. To serve, toss a generous amount of vinaigrette into the White Bean Salad. Arrange the asparagus in a row on a large white serving platter. Spoon the White Bean Salad in the center, drizzling extra dressing on the tips and ends of the asparagus.
Only a few days left to enter the July cooking contest! Thank you to all those who have submitted their recipes. The winner will be announced on August 1.
Photo credits: kathdedon.wordpress.com and them-apples.co.uk