Saturday, April 11, 2009

Favorite Spring Salad

It’s bright and light and it features seasonal ingredients—morel mushrooms, asparagus, redbud blossoms—in a salad of bowtie pasta, sautéed chicken, with a lemony vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil and rosemary. It’s good at just about any temperature, so it’s perfect for a spring picnic. Like we had today.

Yes. It goes well with good friends, a beautiful view, and a bottle of Hermannhof Spring Blush wine.

By the way, this is a play-it-by-ear thing. You should adjust the quantities of everything to your own tastes.

Julie’s Own Blessings-of-April Pasta Salad

1 bunch of asparagus broken into two- or three-inch pieces (steamed briefly; shock in ice water to stop cooking if necessary; it’s better to slightly undercook; don’t overcook)

Morel mushrooms (halved, soaked briefly in salty water to debug, rinsed, and steamed) (if fresh morels are not available, try shiitakes, cut into slices, and steamed) Quantity? Well, as many as you can find or afford! (Play it by ear.)

12 oz. bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente (rotini works well, too) (don’t overcook) (rinse with cold water to prevent sticking)

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces. Sauté with extra virgin olive oil, a minced shallot, and about four sprigs of fresh rosemary. (Discard the rosemary once the chicken is cooked.) The chicken and cooked shallots can go into the salad.

For the dressing—combine the following in a Mason or jelly jar and shake vigorously to emulsify:

--zest from one small lemon (microplane graters work great for this)

--juice from the lemon, plus enough white wine vinegar to equal 1/3 cup

--2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

--1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

--1 minced shallot (about 1 Tbsp.)

--salt and pepper to taste

Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss gently to combine. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Can serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serve on a bed of fresh baby spinach or lettuce greens; garnish with redbud blossoms just prior to serving.

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