Insalata di primavera

(= Spring Salad)

Ingredients for 4 people: 2 bunches of fresh, thin, green asparagus (approx. 20)2 tender fennel bulbs3 fresh, small, tender artichokes200 g Pecorino Gran Riserva 12 months, cut into slithers2 handfuls of tender mixed salad leaves (lamb’s lettuce, rocket, red radicchio)1 untreated lemon1 tbsp Balsamico Bianco½ tsp pepper hot chilli pepper½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil½ cup olives in oil, pitted1 tbsp pine nuts1 garlic salt (to taste)

For the vinaigrette: in a large bowl, mix the garlic – peeled, with the internal green shoot removed and crushed with a pinch of salt to form a “cream” – the juice and rind of ½ a lemon (only the yellow part, cut into tiny thin strips), the Balsamico Bianco, pepper and dried chilli pepper. Gradually pour in the olive oil, stirring everything together carefully.

For the salad: cut the tougher, greenish-white, bottom end off the asparagus. Wash and then “blanch” them for 10 minutes in boiling water with a pinch of salt, without putting the lid on to avoid them changing colour; strain them and leave to cool down. Remove the outer, tough petals from the artichokes, cut off ¾ of the stalk and a good part of the “tip” – only the tender “heart” should remain – and soak them for 10 minutes in water with the juice of ½ a lemon. Remove the outer layers of the fennel bulbs, cut off the hard part at the bottom, wash, drain and slice them thinly. Put them into the bowl with the vinaigrette, together with the artichokes, well-drained of the water and cut into segments, and the asparagus cut into 3-4 pieces. Mix the vegetables with the dressing and leave to rest for about 10 minutes. In the meanwhile brown the pine nuts in a frying pan over a lively heat for a few minutes. Wash and “dry” the salad leaves and add them to the bowl, followed by the olives – in pieces if you prefer – and the cooled, toasted pine nuts. Mix delicately and taste to see whether you need to add salt and pepper. Transfer everything onto a serving dish, garnish with slithers of pecorino and serve immediately.