Roll out the spears

Vegetable: Asparagus reports in for many uses this season

May 21, 2000|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,UNIVBERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Hand-picked from your backyard garden or from the greengrocer's display, the first asparagus of the season (March through June) is well worth waiting for. The slim, green, spear-tipped stalks please the eye as much as their clean, grassy flavor does the palate. Blanched or steamed, they're memorable served as a side dish or in a salad, soup, stir-fry or pasta dish.

Salade de Saint-Jacques

Serves 4

1/2 pound sea scallops

1 cup chicken stock

24 young asparagus spears, trimmed to 3 inches long

24 fresh enokitake mushrooms

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon gin

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 small bunch watercress, stemmed

To prepare salad, rinse and clean scallops. In a medium pan, bring stock to a boil; add scallops. Remove immediately from heat, cover, and let stand. After 5 minutes, remove lid; let scallops cool in cooking liquid. Drain, slicing if desired.

Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water until crisp-tender. Drain, refreshing in ice water. Drain again; pat dry. Trim roots from mushrooms.

To prepare sauce, in small bowl combine mayonnaise, tomato paste, horseradish, gin and cream; stir to blend. Cover and chill.

In center of each of four salad plates, arrange a quarter of the watercress; top with a quarter of the scallops; drizzle a tablespoon of sauce over each serving. Tuck 6 spears asparagus and 6 mushrooms into each portion of watercress and scallops to resemble wheel spokes. Serve at once, passing remaining sauce at table.

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