A Seasonal Starter

In our house, salad generally comes after the main course.

This is an old European tradition, but that isn't why we do it. We simply find a green salad is quite refreshing after a meal.

However, I make some salads that don't really qualify as a green salad and are more appropriate as first courses - a seafood salad, for example.

Today's recipe is another I find perfect for a starter: asparagus mimosa. And the season for this is now.

I saw some really beautiful purple asparagus at the farmers market this past week and wanted to do something a little different.

Asparagus mimosa can be plain steamed asparagus topped with chopped hard-boiled egg, or it can be more involved - blanched asparagus tossed in a tarragon vinaigrette and then sprinkled with the iconic mimosa egg topping. That is my favorite way.

I remember the first time I had a dish ending with "mimosa." It was just after my senior year in college, and my friend Martha made poached eggs with a creamy white sauce and topped it with "mimosa." Eggs with your eggs, you say?

The funny thing is that true "eggs mimosa" is really just another name for stuffed or deviled eggs.

As for the asparagus mimosa, I found references to it being made in 12th-century France, and only a brief description in Larousse Gastronomique. I have to assume it is French but cannot find any definitive source stating that.

I have always thought it was called so because it resembles mimosa or acacia blossoms. And, since I love them for both their beauty and amazing fragrance, that works for me.

I love asparagus dressed in a light vinaigrette, as the acidity pairs nicely with the asparagus and egg.

This is a good "do ahead" dish that keeps, covered, for a few hours in the refrigerator - but hold off sprinkling on the egg till you serve. It also works well as a light luncheon served with a cup of soup.

~ David

Asparagus Mimosa

2 pounds asparagus, not too thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
freshly ground black pepper
1 hard boiled egg

Prepare a bowl of ice and cold water.

Put asparagus in a large skillet, then cover with cold, salted water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer asparagus, uncovered for 5-6 minutes. Transfer with tongs to ice water, drain, then pat dry. Wipe skillet dry and return to medium-low heat.

Heat oil in the skillet and add shallot. When shallot is soft, remove skillet from heat and whisk in vinegar, mustard, tarragon, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Once emulsified, set aside to cool.

When cool, add the asparagus and toss well to coat.

Halve hard-boiled egg, then force through a medium-mesh sieve onto a plate. (Alternatively, crumble cooked yolks and finely chop whites.)

Using tongs, divide asparagus among 4 plates. Spoon a little additional vinaigrette over asparagus. Top with egg and serve.

Serves 4.

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