By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist
Once upon a time — not too long ago — asparagus was
one of those harbingers of spring, like daffodils.
the fact that we had asparagus for a Christmas holiday meal (the wonders of
modern shipping!), I still associate asparagus with spring. One thing is
certain, they are more affordable then.
Maybe some of our readers even grow their own and look
forward to the early arrival of their asparagus. We’re not so fortunate,
but we do look forward to enjoying asparagus at every opportunity when they
are plentiful and affordable each spring.
To keep your asparagus fresh, wrap the bottom ends of
the spears in a moist paper towel and place unwashed in a plastic bag in the
refrigerator where they can be kept nicely for at least three days. Size
doesn’t matter — thick or thin — it’s a matter of personal
We have tested a menu that is surprisingly simple, yet
good and elegant as well. For sure, it is low in fat and calories.
Steaming the potatoes, salmon and asparagus in a
three-tier steamer, as recommended, was not possible. I don’t own a
three-tier steamer and I’ve declared a moratorium on more kitchen
equipment — opening my cabinets produces a cascade already — but I made
do and it worked.
I steamed the asparagus in the top of a very large egg
poacher, the potatoes in a large saucepan with a metal vegetable steamer
inserted, and the salmon I steamed in a large skillet, using a cake rack
over the water for the fish.
The sauce for all three was good and couldn’t have
been simpler — a bottle of honey Dijon salad dressing containing chopped
walnuts. When my guests asked about the “wonderful” sauce, I hated to
confess it was straight out of a salad dressing bottle.
Asparagus salad has always been a favorite of mine,
usually with crumbled bacon, bleu cheese and vinaigrette. But, we
discovered, with oranges and your own vinaigrette, again topped with chopped
walnuts, we had an excellent combination.
Asparagus cooks very quickly, just four or five
minutes. So watch your time carefully. They should still be crispy.
Steamed Salmon Dinner with Walnut Vinaigrette
Directions: Combine shallots with the vinegar
and sherry. Let stand 20 minutes. Zest one of the oranges. Finely chop zest
and add to the shallots. Squeeze 1⁄3 cup juice from zested orange and
add to mixture. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set
aside. Cut asparagus spears in half or fourths and steam for 4 to 5 minutes
until crisp-tender. Drain, remove from pan and cool. Toss with vinaigrette.
Peel both oranges and slice into
1-inch slices. Arrange asparagus and orange slices on
watercress or lettuce, drizzle dressing over both. Sprinkle chopped walnuts
on top. Serves 4.
*To toast walnuts, bake in 250 degree oven until
browned, 10 to 12 minutes.