Warm asparagus and cabbage salad

Whenever my dashing husband and I find ourselves in the happy position of being able to go out for a quick meal together – which, let’s be honest, just isn’t that often – we head over to Piccino an almost embarrassing percentage of the time. It’s close, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s no big deal while also being insanely pleasant.

We darted over there for an early dinner the other night when our son was at a friend’s house for his own last-minute dinner plans.

One thing I love about their salads is they are never quite what you expect, despite the ample menu description. I suppose this would annoy some people, but it fits my eating out strategy perfectly. I eat a lot of good food. Or, rather, a lot of the food I eat is good. I don’t worry too much about whether any given dish is going to be good – at this point I’m often looking to be surprised, if only a bit, when I eat out. This salad did that. Who, as my dad might say, would have thought?

Warm asparagus and cabbage salad

The key to the success of this dish is to use a cast iron frying pan. It gets nice and hot and gives the cabbage and asparagus a bit of a charred edge.

1 egg

3 shallots

Vegetable oil

1/2 head Savoy cabbage, chopped or shredded

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal

2 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the egg in a pot and cover with water. bring to a boil, cover, take off the heat and let sit 14 minutes. Drain and peel the egg under cool running water. Set aside.

Peel shallots and slice them.

Heat a thick layer (almost 1/4 inch) of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. Add shallots and fry until they are browned and stop sizzling so swiftly. Lift shallots out of the oil and drain on a layer of paper towels. Set shallots aside. Pour out any excess oil from the pan.

Return pan, with its now-scant covering of oil, to the heat. Add cabbage, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until it wilts and starts to brown. Lift cabbage out of the pan and transfer to a wide shallow bowl.

Add asparagus to the pan, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring often, until tender and starting to char on the edges. Add to the cabbage, sprinkle with lemon juice, and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Add fried shallots and toss to combine. Divide onto serving plates or serve family style – but first finely chop or shred the egg and use it to garnish the salad.