Chef Alan Merhar of Evans Street Station in Tecumseh gets through the snowy months thinking about spring and its bounty. “Arugula, asparagus, and spring onions are some of the first ingredients available locally,” he says. “There is nothing better than the first trip to the farm. That is the true sign that winter is over.” He calls this recipe “ultra fresh and ultra spring.”
SPRING ARTICHOKE AND ARUGULA SALAD WITH GRILLED ASPARAGUS AND ROASTED SWEET ONION
2 medium artichokes
10 spears asparagus, medium size, bottoms trimmed
1 sweet spring onion
1 red bell pepper, roasted
2 anchovies, minced into paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup arugula, washed and dried
1/4 cup Parmesan (reggiano preferred)
1. Artichoke preparation:
Pull off outer leaves until you reach leaves that are half yellow, half green. Cut off the end of the stem, leaving about an inch. With a paring knife, cut off the top of the cone and peel the outside to remove the green. With a small spoon, scoop the inside of the ’choke to remove the inedible fur. Immediately place the cleaned artichokes in a small pot of salted water with a squeeze of lemon. Simmer over medium heat until fork-tender. Remove and cut into small pie-shaped pieces and allow to cool.
2. Asparagus preparation:
Lightly oil the asparagus and season it with salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill until softened, rotating frequently for even cooking (a little char is a good thing). Cut into 1-inch pieces and let cool.
3. Red pepper preparation:
Lightly oil and place on the grill. Allow the entire pepper to char black. Remove from the grill and immediately place into a bowl covered with film wrap and let sit 5 minutes. Remove the film wrap and wipe off the charred skin (do not rinse, or you will lose flavor). Cut the top off and remove the seeds. Dice pepper and let cool.
4. Sweet onion preparation:
Trim off both ends and remove papery skin. Halve end to end. Lightly oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a cooking sheet tray in 350-degree oven and roast until fork-tender (a little color is a good thing). Remove from oven and cool. Cut the onion into 1/2-inch pieces.
5. In a bowl, juice the lemons, making sure to discard seeds. Whisk in the minced anchovies, garlic, and olive oil.
6. Toss in artichokes, asparagus, sweet onion, roasted pepper, capers, and olives. At this point, the salad may be refrigerated for a couple of days, if needed.
7. Just before serving, add Parmesan and arugula.