For a salad to be truly outstanding, it takes a few extra steps, but the results are so much better than dressing casually poured on greens, that the extra effort is worth it. This is exactly the salad I want to eat as a light lunch or for a first course of dinner on one of those unexpectedly hot days in spring. It highlights some of the season's best vegetables and satisfies with the creamy egg and savory parmesan on top.
¼ loaf brioche
1 generous tablespoon butter
8-10 stalks asparagus
4 good size radishes
Approximately 4 cups arugula, washed and thoroughly dried
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
For the Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
First, make the croutons. Rip approximately ten 1 inch cubes of brioche (without crust)—ripping them, rather than cutting them, gives a nice craggy texture. Cover a plate with 2 layers of paper towel for draining. Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toss the brioche cubes in the butter over medium high heat until golden brown on all sides. Place on paper towel covered plate to drain, immediately sprinkle croutons with kosher salt. Set aside.
Wash and dry the asparagus stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, starting above the woody end of the stalk and working toward the tip, shave the asparagus into thin strips.
After thoroughly washing the radishes, trim off the root tip. Slice radishes crosswise, very thinly. A mandolin works best for this, but it can also be achieved with a sharp knife and attention to detail.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave about a dozen good sized flakes of parmesan cheese.
Make the dressing. In a small bowl whisk together Dijon mustard and fresh lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil to create an emulsion. Season with a pinch of salt and a bit of fine ground black pepper, to taste.
Poach the eggs. In a medium saucepan, bring several inches of water and a splash of white vinegar to a boil (the vinegar helps the egg whites hold their shape). Crack the eggs separately into two small bowls or dishes. A teacup with a handle works very well. Place a paper towel over a plate. Reduce the water to a bare simmer and gently lower each egg into the water (don’t make a splash, the edge of the egg dish should dip into the water). Let eggs cook until whites are set but yolks still jiggle. Use a slotted spoon to transfer each egg to the paper towel covered plate. Sprinkle each egg with a bit of salt and black pepper.
Dress the arugula by lightly covering the bottom of a large bowl with 2/3 of the dressing. Using your hands, gently toss the arugula in the bowl to coat each leaf evenly. Arugula should be very dry to start so that the dressing adheres properly. If it’s wet, the dressing will slide right off.
Lightly dress the asparagus strips in a separate bowl with the rest of the dressing, tossing by hand to coat thoroughly.
Arrange the arugula in mounds on 2 large plates. Top arugula with ½ of the dressed asparagus and sprinkle ½ of the radish slices on each plate. Place one egg on top of each plate. Sprinkle with herbs, dividing evening. Top with parmesan flakes and croutons, divided evenly between two plates. Serve and enjoy immediately.
Makes 2 salads.