Asparagus & Wilted Arugula Salad with Pancetta & Almonds

asparagus1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces thin-sliced pancetta (can substitute 8 slices of bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces)
½ C toasted shaved or slivered almonds
6 ounces arugula

Dressing:

1 T shallots, minced
¼ C dry sherry
2 T red wine or sherry vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot and add the pancetta slices. (If the pancetta is very lean, add 1 T. olive oil to the pan.) After 1-2 minutes, turn the pancetta once and continue to cook another minute until the fat is lightly golden, then remove to a plate and set aside. Once all the pancetta is cooked, add the asparagus to the same pan and cook, stirring often, until the pieces are crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus to the plate with the pancetta. If there is no moisture left in the pan add 1 T. olive oil. Add the shallots and cook over medium-high heat for a minute, then add the sherry and boil to reduce the liquid by half. Whisk in the vinegar and Dijon mustard. Remove from the heat and add the olive oil a little at a time, whisking well to make a thick dressing.

Put the arugula in a serving bowl, add the toasted almonds, asparagus and crumble the pancetta over the salad. Add just enough dressing to slightly wilt the arugula, toss well and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.


Warm Fingerling Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

potato salad

The escarole holds up well when tossed with warm potatoes and warm dressing and its slight bitterness is pleasant when paired with robust flavors of pancetta and gouda.  You could substitute spinach for the escarole.  Smoked gouda would also make a nice change. Serve the salad warm or at room temperature. Four good-sized servings. Adapted from Fine Cooking. Demoed at Brookside March 12 and at US Botanic Garden March 13, 2014.
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