After an uncommonly cool spring, it is suddenly blazing hot here in southwestern Ontario. So this means that salads are in order, both to cool and refresh the palate and to avoid hovering over a hot stove for lengthy periods of time. This sudden heat wave also happens to coincide with the beginning of asparagus season here, and that happens to be my husband’s favorite vegetable.
Asparagus is delicious on its own with just a little lemon juice and salt, of course, but it also pairs wonderfully with simple flavors as a backdrop — think potatoes, for example. For this salad, tender cannellini beans serve as the backdrop to a serving of lightly steamed crunchy asparagus tossed in a lively and creamy lemon, tarragon and grainy mustard dressing. And mushrooms are my weakness, so I added them into the mix. It all comes together for a simple but elegant and satisfying summer meal, served up with some crusty bread.
Cannellini Bean and Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms
handful of dried curry leaves, crumbled (or 1 bay leaf)
1 lb (1 bunch or 450 g) asparagus
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 large white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon or grain mustard, to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Rinse the cannellini beans and soak for 8 hours or overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a medium saucepan and cover with fresh water. Add the curry leaves or bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain and transfer to a large salad bowl.
Meanwhile, snap the woody ends off of the asparagus spears and steam the spears for 6 minutes or until just tender but still retaining their crunch. Transfer to the salad bowl.
Now cook the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, drop in the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to brown and lose some of their liquid. Transfer to the bowl with the asparagus.
To make the dressing, combine the tarragon, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard in a small food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
Pour the dressing over the salad, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This is my contribution to No Croutons Required. A monthly event showcasing vegetarian soups and salads, alternately hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes and myself. It is my turn to host this month.