Tested and Perfected by Food and Wine

Chez Benoit's Spring Salad

  • SERVINGS: 4 SERVINGS AS A SALAD, 2 AS A MAIN COURSE
  • HEALTHY
  • VEGETARIAN

Salad

  1. 1 pound (500 g) asparagus
  2. 8 ounces (250 g) green beans, rinsed, trimmed at both ends, quartered
  3. Fine sea salt to taste
  4. 8 ounces (250 g) snow peas, rinsed, trimmed at both ends, quartered
  5. Several tablespoons minced fresh chives
  6. Several tablespoons fresh chervil leaves (or substitute fresh tarragon leaves)

Walnut Oil Dressing

  1. 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  2. Fine sea salt to taste
  3. 5 tablespoons walnut oil (or substitute hazelnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil)
  1. Trim the asparagus, discarding the tip of the woody end. Trim the tender tips to about 4 inches (10 cm). Cut the tips into three or four even pieces. (Reserve the less tender ends for other uses.) Set aside.
  2. Prepare several large bowls of ice water.
  3. Fill a large pot with 6 quarts (6 l) of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of salt and the green beans, and cook in rapidly boiling water.
  4. Boil uncovered, until crisp- tender, 3 to 4 minutes. (Cooking time will vary, according to the size and tenderness of the beans.) Immediately remove the colander from the water, allow the water to drain from the beans, and plunge the colander with the beans into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible. (The beans will cool in 1 to 2 minutes. If you leaven them longer, they will become soggy and begin to lose flavor). Transfer the beans to a strainer, drain, and wrap in a thick towel to dry. (The beans can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance. Keep them wrapped in the towel and refrigerate, if desired.)
  5. Bring the water back to a boil, add the snow peas and cook in rapidly boiling water, uncovered, until they are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. (Cooking time will vary, according to the size and tenderness of the vegetable.) Immediately drain the peas and plunge them into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible. (The peas will cool in 1 to 2 minutes. If you leaven them longer, they will become soggy and begin to lose flavor). Transfer the peas to a strainer, drain, and wrap in a thick towel to dry. (The peas can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance. Keep them wrapped in the towel and refrigerate, if desired.)
  6. Add the asparagus tips and cook in rapidly boiling water, uncovered, until the tips are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. (Cooking time will vary according to the size of the asparagus tips.) Immediately drain the asparagus tips and plunge them into ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible and retain their crispness and bright green color. (The asparagus will cool in 1 to 2 minutes. After that, they will soften and begin to lose crispness and flavor.) Transfer the asparagus to a colander, drain, and wrap in a thick towel to dry. (The asparagus can be cooked up to 2 hours in advance. Keep them wrapped in the towel and hold at room temperature.)
  7. Prepare the walnut oil dressing: In a small bowl combine the lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the oil and taste for seasoning. Set aside. (Do not dress the salad until the very last moment or the vegetables will turn soggy and discolor from the acid in the dressing.)
  8. To serve, combine all the vegetables in a large, shallow bowl. Sprinkle with chives and chervil. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Toss very gently to blend. Taste for seasoning. Serve as a first course or as a main luncheon dish.
Notes Boiling green vegetables in generously salted water improves their flavor and preserves their bright green color. The cooking water should taste quite salty, like the sea.