Wilted Balsamic Spinach Salad with Asparagus
6 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried, and chilled*
1 pound asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed**
3 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
* Choose spinach leaves that are crisp and have dark green with a nice fresh fragrance. Avoid those that are limp, damaged, or spotted. Like all greens, spinach should be washed as soon as you buy it. Loose spinach can be very gritty, so it must be thoroughly rinsed and then dried (I like to use my salad spinner).
** Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, and firm tips. Also look for cut ends that are not dry. Select asparagus stalks that are about the same thickness so cooking will be uniform. Thickness does not influence quality. If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water.
*** To purchase good-quality balsamic vinegars, check out What's Cooking America's Gourmet Food Store.
Remove stems and veins from spinach leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces; place spinach on individual serving plates.
Remove the woody ends from the fresh asparagus by gently bending the end of each asparagus spear until it snaps off. Discard the tough ends. Rinse the asparagus under cold running water and drain in a colander or on a clean towel.
In a large skillet or frying pan, blanch the asparagus in lightly-salted boiling water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process; drain and dry well; set aside. NOTE: The asparagus will continue to cook a little bit when removed from the water, so they should be a little less cooked than you want them to be.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion, garlic, and pepper; heat mixture until hot, stirring occasionally.
Add the blanched asparagus spears to the prepared dressing mixture, tossing to coat and then reheat.
Remove from heat. Place asparagus spears over the top of the prepared spinach. Pour the warm dressing over asparagus and spinach. Sprinkle with chopped eggs and serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.