We have had a houseful of guests since the day after Christmas. It has been non-stop cooking and eating ranging from our Top 10 Pinoy favorites to Asian dishes, Western roasts and at least a dozen different desserts from near and far. An attack of gout is almost certainly around the bendâ€¦ so the past few days we have tried to eat just a little bit more healthily and we had three salads worth mentioningâ€¦ First up, was a simple plate of cold white asparagus with extra virgin olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese. I woke up the other day to a text from Edwin of Fresh Fields at Market!Market! asking if I wanted any white asparagus that he had flown in from Bukidnonâ€¦ and I said â€œYES, PLEASE!â€ and jumped into a pair of jeans and drove over in 18 minutes flat.
I took three bundles, and back at home, I cut off the tough ends and peeled the stems near the bottom to remove any tough skin. The key to good white asparagus is that it is refrigerated from the time it is harvested until the time you cook it. It is best harvested at the wee early morning hours and eaten on the same day. If you have purchased â€œwoodyâ€ white asparagus locally, itâ€™s a result of poor handling, not necessarily poor produce. At any rate, I dropped the prepped asparagus into boiling water until just tender (do not overcook) and removed them and plunged them into an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep their brightness (if you do this for green asparagus, they will retain their bright green color). Next drain the asparagus and pat dry with paper towels and cool in the fridge. Add some good olive oil, parmesan shavings and salt and pepper and you have one of the easiest and most delicious starters/salads around. Another salad we made was a simple romaine (cos), thinly sliced jamon Serrano and pear mixture that we served with a champagne vinegar dressing. Just put some nice small inner leaves of romaine on a platter, arrange some thin slices of Jamon Serrano or Prosciutto di Parma or Speck and cut some good crisp pear (I used Chinese or Japanese pears) on top. Dress with a mustard vinaigrette using a champagne vinegar if you have it and dress lightly. The nice crisp romaine goes very well with the salty proscuitto and the sweet and juicy pear. Super easy and delicious!
Finally, if you want a salad that is also a complete meal, a composed salade nicoise is always a good choice. Select some nice mixed greens, though I predominantly like romaine for crunch, then some cold boiled potatoes, tomatoes, green beans (the thin ones if you can get them), boiled egg, olives, artichokes, tuna, anchovies and you have veggie, protein and carb all in one dish. Dress with a nice mustard-y vinaigrette and this is perfect lunch food for me. I like to eat this with a crusty bread roll or slices of French bread and/or a bowl of tomato soupâ€¦