Fresh asparagus and tarragon are perfect seasonal partners. Wonderful together in a soup, or as a side with grilled salmon or chicken, they make a salad sing and an omelet rise to the occasion.
Here are recipes for two of my favorites. The salad is a perfect first course for a dinner party; the puffed omelet takes brunch to a new level. I hope you will enjoy them both as we finally begin to celebrate spring.
Asparagus and shrimp salad with tarragon
1 pound fresh or frozen medium shrimp in shells
4 blood (or regular) oranges
1/2 teaspoon finely grated peel from one of the oranges
2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup fresh juice from 1 or 2 of the oranges
1 pound fresh asparagus tips leaving 3 inches of spear
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or orange balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
6 cups torn mixed salad greens (or arugula)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Thaw shrimp if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp. Rinse under
cold water and drain. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add shrimp and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes or just until shrimp are opaque.
Drain in colander, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pat shrimp dry with towels and transfer to a bowl. Add the grated orange peel and 2 tablespoons juice, toss lightly, cover and chill.
In a medium saucepan or skillet, cook asparagus in a small amount of boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain in colander, rinse under cold water and drain again. Lightly season with salt, wrap in a tea towel and chill.
Peel 2 of the oranges. With a sharp knife, and holding over a bowl, cut between the orange sections and let the pieces fall into the bowl. Cover and chill.
In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup orange juice, the oil, vinegar, garlic, tarragon, salt and pepper. Set aside, covered with plastic or a small plate, at room temperature (or chill if making well in advance).
Distribute salad greens among 6 salad plates. Arrange shrimp, orange sections and asparagus decoratively on each. Top with green onions and drizzle with dressing.
Asparagus, Gruyere & Tarragon Souffleed Omelet
(2 servings - ingredients can double for 4)
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 medium-sized red onion, sliced thin into half moons
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2/3 cup coarsely grated Gruyere
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves, or to taste
4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the asparagus crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large non-stick skillet, simmer the asparagus in water to cover for 3 to 4 minutes or until it is just tender. Drain asparagus, rinse it under cold water, drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer the pieces to a bowl.
In the same skillet, sauté the onion with salt and pepper to taste in 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden but not brown. Transfer the onion to the asparagus, then add the Gruyére, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Clean the skillet and melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Tilt the skillet to coat it and remove from the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and flour with salt and pepper to taste until the mixture is thick and lemon-colored. In another bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture gently but thoroughly, and pour into the buttered skillet, spreading it evenly.
Bake the omelet in the middle of the oven for 7 minutes, or until it is puffed and almost cooked through. Spread the asparagus/cheese/onion filling down the middle of it and, with a spatula, fold the omelet in half to enclose the filling. Bake the omelet for 1 minute more, or until the cheese is melted and the omelet is cooked through.