It's a very cheery sight to see baskets of strawberries and bundles of asparagus in markets these days.
Although asparagus needs little enhancement--melted butter and salt and pepper dress it nicely--sometimes I just can't leave well enough alone. Melted butter with a little lemon juice, salt and sprinkle of capers makes a good topping. Or serve this vinaigrette on chilled asparagus atop a bed of butter lettuce. (It's also good on other full-flavored vegetables and greens.)
Serve the asparagus with whole wheat toast on the side and follow it with Featherbed Eggs With Strawberries. Different meats, cheeses and vegetables can be added to the eggs for variety.
I don't think a dessert is called for with this meal, but it never hurts to pass chocolates with coffee.
Cunningham's latest book is "Cooking With Children" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).
ASPARAGUS WITH VINAIGRETTE
2 pounds asparagus
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 head butter lettuce
Snap woody ends off asparagus. Place spears in large, shallow skillet with about 1/4 inch water and bring to boil over high heat. Cook, covered, shaking pan occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes for thin asparagus, 7 to 10 minutes for thick. Drain and chill.
Whisk vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper to taste, green onions and parsley until well mixed. Slowly add vegetable oil, whisking until blended. Add 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil and whisk until blended. Taste and slowly add remaining sesame oil until dressing has faint nutty flavor.
Arrange chilled asparagus on bed of butter lettuce. Spoon on vinaigrette. Serve cold.
4 servings. Each serving:
244 calories; 199 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 2.09 grams fiber.
FEATHERBED EGGS WITH STRAWBERRIES
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 slices bread, crusts trimmed
1 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs, slightly beaten
2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced
Spread cream cheese on each bread slice. Arrange bread in single layer in buttered 13x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir milk and eggs until blended. Pour over bread. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, place dish in cold oven. Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and lightly golden, about 1 hour.
Sweeten strawberries with sugar to taste if desired and spread over eggs or serve on side. Serve immediately.
4 servings. Each serving:
579 calories; 636 mg sodium; 412 mg cholesterol; 38 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.92 gram fiber.