Tuesday, May 11, 2010

deja vu all over again

You know what's nice on a spring night in Seattle, when the days are getting longer but the sky's still gray with rain? A good hearty salad...oh wait, did I say that already?

Well, here's the thing. Around these parts when I find an approach to dinner that works I use it over and over again. And again. And then a few more times. I wouldn't call these patterns ruts, exactly--more like kicks. There's only so much creativity I can muster at the end of a long day, you know? So I tend to fall back on variations on a tried-and-true theme.

But for me there's a lot of pleasure in this repetition. I like the reliability of this kind of cooking. And the seasonality of it prevents it from becoming boring--the calendar page will flip and one of these days we'll move on to a new dinner kick (I'm so looking forward to grilled artichokes), so we may as well enjoy this one while we can.

So last week's warm sweet potato salad is followed by this week's warm asparagus salad. This one could hardly be simpler--just roasted asparagus, tossed with fresh herbs and a splash of vinegar while it's still warm, and strewn with a bit of crumbled goat cheese. We're entering that dead-simple-cooking time of year that I love.

We ate this with poached eggs on toast. Of course we did.

Roasted Asparagus Salad

1 pound asparagus
2 large cloves garlic
1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil
black pepper
A large roasted red pepper--or half the contents of a 7-oz. jar
1 to 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Chopped fresh herbs--a few tablespoons altogether. I used chervil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Whatever you have in your herb garden will be just fine, I bet.
About 2 to 3 oz. fresh goat cheese (chevre)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Wash the asparagus, break off the tough ends, and cut the stalks into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Peel the garlic. Toss the asparagus in a large baking dish with the olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste, and pressed garlic.

Bake the asparagus--stir once or twice--until the stalks are tender but still firm and bright green, about 15 minutes. If you want delicious little charred bits you can turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.

While the asparagus is cooking, chop the red pepper into shortish strips and wash and finely chop your herbs.

Remove the asparagus from the oven and let it cool slightly. Then place it in a bowl along with the red pepper strips, splash some red wine vinegar on it, add the herbs, and toss together. Crumble some goat cheese over each serving (best to do this right before eating it so that the cheese doesn't get soggy).

Makes about 3 side-dish servings.

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