I was never one to swoon over vegetables. Bread and pastries, yes. But not vegetables. Until Spring asparagus in Belgium. I was on a work trip, and as always for me, the restaurant meals were the best part. The asparagus was white, served with chopped egg, and a tantalizing dressing. The flavor was unfamiliar to me at the time, but I now know it was tarragon. In the bookstores with my co-worker Jean-Raymond, I searched indexes for anything “Asperges”. I flew home with La Cuisine Belge De Terroir in my carry on—beyond my French abilities, but nonetheless, a beloved reminder of my “Julia Child moment”.
I was a California kid in the 1970’s. I grew up in a suburban house with shag carpeting and “avocado green” appliances. My mom was a good cook but veggies were never anything especially celebrated, and they were always well done. Crisp-tender was a term that could only be used to describe our iceberg lettuce.
You don’t need recipes to celebrate vegetables. But you do need to learn a couple basic techniques: a quick blanch in water followed by a “shock” in ice water makes “crisp tender”, or, if you prefer a little caramelization, drizzle with olive oil and crank the oven to 400 for roasting. These two techniques will keep you and your vegetables very happy.
Make this dish for a simple dinner — just add a loaf of sourdough, grilled fish, or for you meat eaters out there, prosciutto (La Quercia, available at the Co-Op). Save a little dressing and drizzle it over sliced Easter eggs for lunch. Recipe adapted from “Gribiche Dressing”, Bon Appétit, March 2017.
- 6 cornichons, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced (or half tarragon, half parsley)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper
- Serve with: blanched or roasted asparagus, 3 hard boiled eggs (peeled and chopped)
- Whisk together cornichons, tarragon, vinegar, capers, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over asparagus and eggs just before serving.