Grilled Asparagus with Spring Vegetables
This dish brings together the essence of spring vegetables. Choose the jumbo asparagus available in the spring. Ramps are wild leeks found in many parts of the country; farmed leeks may be substituted, but use half as many.
- Asparagus - 20 jumbo, bottom third trimmed off
- Lemon - 1
- Baby Artichokes - 4
- Spring onions - 4 new, tops removed, or small mild onions
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 5 tablespoons
- Ramps - 12 fresh, rinsed and cleaned (substitute: 6 leeks, split)
- Potato - 4 new, boiled and quartered
- Dill - 1 frond fresh, chopped
- Thyme - 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Morels - 4, roughly chopped
- Shallot - 1, finely sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 4 tablespoons
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1 tablespoon, aged
- Sourdough bread - 8 small slices
- Goat Cheese - 8 slices
- Oil-cured black olives - 12 – 16, drained, pitted, and crushed or chopped
- Mixed herbs - 1/2 cup (parsley, dill, chives, and tarragon)
- Tomatoes - 4, peeled and quartered
- Chive - 4 blossoms
To prepare the vegetables: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and plunge in the asparagus. Cook 3 minutes, until just tender. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain on paper towels.
Trim the artichokes: Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one half into a small bowl of cold water. As you work with the artichokes, dip them in the water to keep them from discoloring. Cut off two-thirds of the artichoke tops and remove the outer leaves. Pare off the tough green skin until the pale flesh is revealed. Rub the artichokes with the squeezed lemon half. Place the artichokes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add the juice of the remaining lemon half and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer 8 – 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain and plunge into cold water. When cool enough to handle, halve or quarter the artichokes, depending on size, and scrape out the fuzzy chokes.
Cut the onions in half or quarters, depending on their size. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the onions. Toss to coat and cook until lightly colored, translucent, and tender, 3 – 5 minutes, tossing occasionally to keep them from sticking. Remove from heat and drain.
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and plunge the ramps or leeks into the water. Cook for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and plunge into a bowl of ice water. When cool, remove and drain on paper towels. Put the ramps in a grill pan or heavy skillet with the 2 of the remaining tablespoons of olive oil, toss to coat, and grill over medium-high heat until well browned and caramelized.
Toss the potatoes with the dill and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and saute the morels for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
To make the vinaigrette: In a non-aluminum bowl, whisk together the shallot, salt and pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Adjust seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper.
To assemble: Preheat the broiler to high. Place the sourdough slices on a baking sheet and top with the goat cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese has melted. Remove and sprinkle with olives. Place the asparagus in a grill pan over medium-high heat and grill until warmed and marked with grill marks. Toss the vegetables, mixed herbs, and vinaigrette together in a mixing bowl, add the asparagus, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place two slices of grilled sourdough on each plate. Divide the salad mixture among the plates, giving each a sampling of vegetables. Add tomatoes to each plate. Garnish with chive blossoms.