The Perfect Spring Salad

At the Twisted Lemon in Cayuga, Ontario, chef Dan Megna combines the first flavors of the season.

Shaved Spring Asparagus Salad with Grilled Nebrodi Mushrooms and Maple Vinaigrette (serves 4 to 6)
4 medium-sized Nebrodi oyster mushrooms (approximately 3 ounces each)
2 tablespoons plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon (combined) fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 sweet shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 bunch fresh spring asparagus
4 cups baby arugula
1 wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
¼ cup toasted pine nuts

 To prepare the mushrooms, leave stems on and slice about ½ inch thick, then toss gently and marinate for 30 minutes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped herbs and garlic. Preheat grill on high heat. Remove from marinade and lightly season mushrooms with salt and pepper and grill for about 45 seconds on each side or until lightly marked and tender.

To make the vinaigrette, macerate the diced shallot for 15 minutes in the vinegar, lemon juice and a little salt. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and slowly whisk in a ½ cup olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify dressing. Add in the maple syrup.

Snap off the tough bottom ends of the asparagus spears. With a Japanese mandolin or vegetable peeler, very carefully shave each spear into long, paper-thin ribbons. Put the shaved asparagus and baby arugula in a salad bowl; season with salt and pepper, dress lightly with the vinaigrette and add the warm grilled mushrooms. Divide the salad among four to six plates. With a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, shave large curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano  over each serving and top with toasted pine nuts.

The Mushroom Hunt: Nebrodi mushrooms are common in Ontario in spring, but if you have trouble finding them, substitute king oyster, porcini or portobello.

Make it a Meal: Chef Dan Megna suggests serving this salad with a lightly grilled piece of cedar plank salmon with thinly sliced lemon and fresh thyme. Or, for lunch, on a ciabatta bun with cured prosciutto, thinly mixed heirloom tomatoes, spicy mustard and Boston bibb lettuce — all lightly grilled in a panini press.