The month of April was largely spent indoors on shoots. I’ve seen glimpses of spring – mixed with some summer-like 80 degree weather – while walking to and from my car. Now that I’m about to have a lull before heading out of town, it’s been nice to have a chance to get in the kitchen. To hold the camera again. Cooking lunch at home. Dreaming of the spring produce I’ve been anticipating for months. Coming back here and sharing. I’ve missed this place and I’ve missed my time alone in front of the stove.
Inspiration was delivered to me at one of those shoot lunches (this doesn’t happen very often, fyi) in the form of an egg salad sandwich with local asparagus on it. Star Provisions has big, fat, beautiful asparagus that really need just a bit of seasoning to make them shine. I’d never thought to do a quickly blanched asparagus on a sandwich before – the texture is lovely and really unique. Those stalks are too precious to let go to waste so I made a simple salad out of the ones I had left over.
Herby Egg Salad Sandwiches with Asparagus – serves 2 as a main course/sandwich
I’ve never had asparagus on any sort of sandwich other than veggie panini or whathaveyou. The texture of the just-barely cooked asparagus is really wonderful with the egg salad and the whole thing seems like spring to me. I think a crustier bread or roll works best here to balance out all of the soft textures but, if you want to go for all-around luscious, use some slices of lightly toasted brioche. I chose chives and parsley as the herbs in my egg salad – use whichever ones you like best and have growing or on hand.
– To make the egg salad: Use whichever method of preparing hard-boiled eggs you prefer. I also use Alton Brown’s method as a base to prepare mine, which Elise also references in her method. Add your eggs to a medium sized stock pot and add water until the eggs are covered by about 1/2″ of water. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat. Once the eggs have come to a vigorous boil, remove them from the heat and cover them. I let them sit for 10 minutes and then drain and peel them. I also find that the adage about using older eggs is true…so buy your eggs a day or two before you plan on boiling them. To make the salad, roughly chop the peeled eggs with the yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and allow to chill for 15 minutes.
– To assemble the sandwiches: Slice your rolls horizontally – I like to leave them hinged on one side because I think it helps contain the egg salad. Evenly distribute the egg salad among the two rolls – you may have a bit leftover if you don’t want super stuffed sandwiches. Slice the asparagus into 1/4″ strips and lay across the top of the egg salad. Close up the rolls and serve. You could also wrap these with a bit of sandwich paper or parchment and store for a picnic – I wouldn’t wait more than an hour to eat these as the bread will get soggy. If you want to gussy them up even more, a bit of arugula or baby watercress is nice here, too.
Asparagus with Tarragon and Hazelnuts – serves 4 as a side dish/salad
I’ve been recipe testing for a cookbook the past month or two. One of the most unique flavor combinations – at least to me – I’ve experienced through that cooking is mixing tarragon with hazelnuts. As soon as I tasted the two together, I thought about springy green vegetables like peas – and asparagus. This is a wonderful way to accent perfect spring asparagus – some hints of texture and herbs without covering up their beauty. If you don’t like hazelnuts (or can’t eat them), you could also use toasted almonds or pine nuts.
– Fill a medium sized stock pot with water and bring to a boil. While heating up the water, also fill a large bowl with ice water. When the water is boiling, pop the asparagus into the water to quickly blanch them – you’re not cooking them through here but just getting them tender. For large asparagus like the ones shown, cooking them for 1-2 minutes is plenty. I judge them by color – when they *just* turn vibrant green, I take them out of the water. Remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. They only need 30 seconds to a minute in the cold water. Remove and allow to thoroughly drain before making the salad.
– To assemble, lay out the asparagus on a serving platter – for larger stalks, cut them in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts evenly over the asparagus and do the same with the tarragon. Squeeze the juice over the stalks and distribute the lemon zest. Drizzle the entire platter with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately – part of the beauty of this is the al dente asparagus. It’s going to lose a bit of it’s magic if the stalks get soggy.