The Professor and I are participating in Verizon’s ‘Savy Gourmet’ program and have been having fun testing Motorola’s new XYBoard (ZIE-board). We met a group of Midwest friends in Chicago last month to get a few lessons on what this new tablet can do. We’ll be talking about the XYBoard tablet in future posts but now I want to share my take on a particular salad we enjoyed at a top-secret dinner, held in a top-secret place.
Our dinner invitation hinted at what was in store for the evening – ‘Even if you live in Chicago, you haven’t eaten here.’ The Professor and I wondered if we’d be dining on a boat somewhere or maybe a pop-up restaurant. And during the day-long workshop, the ‘top-secret’ dinner remained, well, ‘top-secret’ – even though our hosts and organizers of this event seemed very excited (turns out they love food as much as we do!)
That evening, a relatively short bus ride drops us off somewhere in the city – no restaurants in the area but as we walk through a set of old, wooden doors, I am immediately captivated by the charm of an old-fashioned, walled-in courtyard. And once the doors close, the only sounds heard were from those in our group. Wide-eyed and mouths agape at the scene before us: decades old brick walls, well-manicured lawn with meandering small gardens, a mismatched group of seating options that appeared as if they’d been hand-picked specifically for the space. Storms had rolled in earlier in the day, which thankfully, had dropped the oppressive heat and humidity to more tolerable levels.
The space had once been that of a convent and had seen various owners over the years; it’s now being used to host dinner parties like the one created for us this evening. A collection of bowling balls are used as edging along one area of garden beds, while recycled brick line others; old chairs nestled amongst the raspberry bushes beckon visitors to grab a cocktail and settle in for good conversation while a large tortoise appears to be taking note of any secrets that might be divulged.
Chef Efrain Cuevas of Clandestino Dining, an underground Supper Club, is our host and has prepared a seasonal, 5-course meal that was perfect for this warm summer evening: cocktails and appetizers, then two salad courses, two main courses plus dessert – all paired with beer from a local microbrewery. The food was light, simple, fresh and plentiful.
This particular salad was a standout for me that evening – don’t let the simple ingredients fool you – therein lies the beauty of this gem!
ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Inspired by Clandestino Dining
- 3-5 Asparagus Spears per serving (depending on size of spears)
- 3 cups Fresh Baby Greens
- 3-4 Cherry Tomatoes per serving, halved
- 1-inch chunks of assorted cheeses; I used: Parmigiano Reggiano, blue, cheddar and Manchego
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
- 1 cup juice from approximately 2-4 Heirloom tomatoes, depending on size
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon minced shallot
- salt/pepper to taste
- In a bowl or jar with a lid, place all vinaigrette ingredients and either whisk or, if using the jar method, secure lid and shake, until ingredients are well combined. Adjust salt/pepper if needed. Set aside. NOTE: You will have more than enough vinaigrette for this salad.
- Wash and remove tough ends from asparagus; pat dry
- Heat large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes; add asparagus and shake pan to coat spears in olive oil, salt/pepper
- Saute for approximately 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness of asparagus); once asparagus begins to soften, remove from heat – it will finish cooking on its own. You’re looking for crisp tender, not mushy asparagus.
TO DRESS THE GREENS:
- Place 2-3 tablespoons of dressing per 3 cups of salad greens into a large bowl and, using your hands, toss the greens until well covered (I don’t care for my greens to be swimming in dressing so adjust according to your taste).
- Divide sautéed asparagus between two plates
- Place assorted cheese along the right side of the plate
- Top with dressed greens and cherry tomatoes
- A bit more salt/pepper and serve immediately
DISCLOSURE: We are participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for our honest opinions about the product.