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Asparagus Nicoise Salad is a springtime twist on the classic French Nicoise Salad. With fresh asparagus swapped in for green beans, tender new potatoes, eggs as they only are at the height of spring and a zesty dressing complete with fresh lemon juice and capers, it's a salad that I look forward to all year long.
Despite the chilly weather today, I know that spring is coming.
Here in the High Desert of Oregon, we have one-sixth of the growing season of our former Seattle home. So it's not surprising that the trees here are not yet in bloom and I haven't seen a single spring flower. But promises sprout from our garden: garlic, hyacinth, daffodils, tulips, peonies.
When spring is close, I start to crave salads. After months of winter's hearty soups and stews, roasted meats and vegetables, I welcome tender asparagus, delicate pea shoots, new potatoes, and spring eggs with their deep golden yolks - the ingredients that make up this Asparagus Nicoise Salad. (Delicious with quality canned tuna, but also wonderful with Grilled Tuna Steaks.)
You can stick with a spring greens mix for this salad, but have you tried pea shoots? If you like snow peas, you've got to try them. They're tender-crunchy, subtly sweet, and so versatile. I love them raw in salads, for crunch on sandwiches, stirred into pasta, or quick sautéed with garlic in olive oil.
You'll find them at many farmer's markets and some grocery stores, or you can grow them yourself; here's a beautiful way. If you can't find them on their own, look for salad mixes that include them, they add a distinctly spring flavor and texture to this salad. Serve this on it's own or paired with a cup of French Onion Soup for a hearty, Parisian meal. And for a bit of sparkle, add a few spears of Pickled Asparagus.
More Spring Salads
If you're in a spring salad kind of mood, here are a couple of other must-try recipes: Strawberry Spinach Salad, Ahi Tuna Salad and Sugar Snap Pea Salad. And for another spring favorite, Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus or Grilled Bacon Wrapped Asparagus make great appetizers or side dishes.
Asparagus Nicoise Salad
For the vinaigrette:
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
- 1 small shallot chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil or more
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 1 pound baby red potatoes
- 1 pound fresh asparagus woody ends trimmed
- 4 cups fresh pea shoots or 6-8 ounces spring greens
- 8 radishes thinly sliced
- 4 eggs boiled to desired degree of doneness, peeled and halved
- 2 cans high-quality tuna drained
- Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a blender except for the olive oil (chives through vinegar); puree. With blender running, slowly add olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (you can make this a day ahead and refrigerate)
- Place potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to a gentle boil, add a small handful of salt and cook for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool for 5 minutes or more.
- Meanwhile, fill a 13" x 9" baking dish halfway with ice water. Cook asparagus in a large skillet of boiling, salted water for 1 to 3 minutes, until bright green and crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus to ice water to cool. Drain asparagus and pat dry. Dry baking dish and place asparagus and reserved potatoes in it and gently toss with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette to coat.
- Spread pea shoots or spring greens on 1 large platter or 4 individual plates. Arrange potatoes, asparagus, radishes, eggs, and tuna on greens. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve.