Several years ago, when I was an intern at Southern Living, the magazine's garden editor said, "Spring's about to explode any day now." It was the end of March and the seasons hadn't quite changed yet in Alabama. Being a life-long Floridian (winter who?), I had never experienced spring before, and I thought that was a strange choice of words for something I imagined to be so soft, so delicate, so light. But he was right. Spring does explode. After months and months of bare branches—wham!—the trees are suddenly covered with yellow-green leaves and little blossoms that fall like confetti all over the sidewalk. First comes the shockingly yellow forsythia, then tiny little snowdrops, Easter egg-colored crocuses, then daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and my favorite, cherry blossoms. Now that I've lived through several New York springs, I know how the colors and aromas (and pollen, unfortunately) can be a whack to your senses after winter's bleak cold. The garden editor was spot-on, as he was with everything else nature-related, and I always think of him this time of year.
Spring officially began on Friday, but you wouldn't know it here. It's still kind of grey and chilly and drab outside. (These photos are from last year.) Little green things are just starting to push out of the soil--yesterday I saw a sunny patch of daffodils and almost cried--and tree branches are still dotted with hard, knobby buds. I know change isn't far off, but it feels like spring is really dragging its heels. I have a theory that the dismal state of the economy has made this winter feel even longer and more treacherous. Obviously the return of spring won't help my unemployed friends find jobs or get the stock market to stabilize, but there's something sightly helpful about it mentally. I'd like the illusion of turning a new leaf, at least.
So I'm taking matters into my own hands and moving on. No more roasted vegetables, no more puffy coat. See ya, electric blanket. Last weekend, I wore my lightest jacket (I was a little cold, but whatever) and went to the grocery store, where I grabbed a bunch of skinny, bright green asparagus, radishes, fragrant chives, and some ruby red rhubarb, the first I've seen since last summer. What I made with these ingredients was nothing complicated or especially special, but dinner tasted so good and fresh. It is exactly what I want to eat right now. Hello, spring.
Tuna, asparagus, and new potato salad with chive vinaigrette and fried capers
Do you notice anything missing in the photo? Tuna, perhaps? I was so absorbed in chopping and blanching the veggies that I completely forgot to add the tuna. But this salad (from Bon Appetit's March issue) is so good, I didn't even realize it was missing until I brought our dirty dishes back into the kitchen and noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting there on the counter. D'oh! There's so many delicious little things going on in this salad we didn't even miss it, although the tuna does make it a more substantial meal. Which might keep you from doubling up on dessert. Not that we did that.
A few notes: I love BA, but sometimes its instructions can be a little wonky. I simplified the vegetable and egg cooking process by just keeping one pot of water boiling on the stove, to which I added and removed ingredients. I also dressed the veggies and lettuce in one bowl; so much easier than doing everything separately.
For the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
1 1/2 lbs. thick asparagus, stems peeled (I used thin and skipped the stem peeling step)
1 1/4 lbs. baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup capers, drained, patted dry
8 oz. mixed spring greens
16 large radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
12 oz. imported tuna packed in oil, drained
Chive blossoms (optional)
For the vinaigrette:
Puree first 5 ingredients in blender until smooth. With machine running, gradually add vegetable oil, then olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the salad:
Cook asparagus in large skillet of boiling salted water until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the asparagus to 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan (or large bowl) of ice water to cool. Drain asparagus and pat dry. Keep the water boiling
Place the potatoes and eggs in the boiling water. Cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Drain and transfer the potatoes and eggs into a large bowl of ice water (use the one for the asparagus but refill with cold water and ice). Let cool 5 minutes then drain. Crack the eggs and remove the shells. Slice into quarters and set aside. Place the potatoes in a large bowl with the radishes and the greens. Add 1/3 cup vinaigrette; toss to coat. Add 1 more tablespoon vinaigrette if dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the capers:
Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add capers and fry until capers are crisp and open like flowers, stirring often, 45 to 60 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer capers to paper towels to drain.
Plate the greens, potatoes, and radishes prettily on plates. Add the eggs, tuna, and asparagus on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the tuna. Sprinkle with the fried capers and chive blossoms if you have them (I didn't).