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Asparagus mimosa is France’s sunny, eggy ode to spring

By Joe Yonan Washington Post

Come spring, who can’t relate to asparagus?

It hibernates all winter – the “crown” and its roots lurking underground – and only when the soil warms and the light changes does it send shoots upward until they poke through the surface and start stretching toward the sun, painting the brown garden in shades of green and purple. Sunlight is crucial: The chlorophyll that gives most asparagus its green color converts the sun’s energy into sustenance. (White asparagus is such because growers keep it in the dark, covered with mulch or soil.)

A fresh start as the days lengthen: This defines the promise of spring, for us as much as for asparagus and other vegetables. We put the darkness behind us – or try to, anyway – and reach for the light.

In the kitchen, asparagus shines in the spring, especially when paired with eggs, one of its favorite partners. Is it just because both are so plentiful this time of year, when hens who slowed down or even stopped laying have resumed their output? The dishes that use the two together seem innumerable, perhaps because they include the classic and the new, the tried-and-true and the why-not. There’s asparagus hollandaise, asparagus frittata, even just asparagus with scrambled or fried or poached eggs. Every spring, I gorge on the spears, roasting, steaming and sautéing until I get my fill, which usually doesn’t happen until they’re no longer available.

My friend and fellow food writer David Lebovitz is also a fan, and in Paris, where he lives, asparagus fills the farmers markets every year around this time. He’s been excited to see more green spears rather than so much of the white (which, as he says, is only good when it’s super-fresh). Lebovitz is not one to mince words, and when I emailed him recently about a classic French asparagus-and-eggs preparation, he quickly shot back: “I love asparagus mimosa and I think it’s the best way to serve asparagus.”

If you’re not familiar with the dish already, let me set one thing straight: Asparagus mimosa doesn’t have anything to do with champagne and orange juice, although that would be a fine accompaniment. Instead, it gets its name from the way sieved (or grated or finely chopped) egg yolks on a backdrop of whites evoke mimosa flowers. Such poetry!

Perhaps more importantly, it’s downright delicious. And it’s pretty simple, all the better to showcase the flavors of its starring ingredients. The asparagus is lightly cooked (steamed or blanched), bathed in a vinaigrette and topped with the egg whites and then yolks, traditionally in a wide band across the spears. It’s an ideal brunch dish, on its own with some bread, or as a side to a main course of your choosing.

Lebovitz has an excellent recipe on his website, but the spirit of asparagus mimosa is that you can make it fairly off the cuff, using your favorite vinaigrette. To save a little time (and to cut down on pots and bowls), I like to steam the asparagus and eggs together, pulling out the asparagus first and plunging it into an ice bath to protect that hard-won green color and keep it from getting too soft, then doing the same with the eggs before peeling them. My preferred method for the eggs is to swipe them across the fine side of a Microplane box grater, which creates the fluffiest piles with little effort.

The dish is best eaten immediately to appreciate the combination of textures, and that, too, seems in the spirit of the season. As much as we might wish otherwise, spring slips away as quickly as it arrives, year after year.

Asparagus Mimosa

From Food and Dining editor Joe Yonan, loosely based on a David Lebovitz recipe at

2 pounds asparagus spears

4 large eggs

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus spears. In a medium bowl, prepare an ice bath.

In a large pot over high heat, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil. Put the eggs on one side of a steamer insert that fits in the pot, and gently lower the steamer into the pot. Pile the asparagus onto the other side of the steamer so you avoid covering up the eggs. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and set a timer for 13 minutes.

Steam the asparagus and eggs until the asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. (A spear should offer little resistance when pierced with a paring knife and should bend slightly without breaking; if your asparagus is on the thinner side, start checking after 3 minutes.) Use tongs to immediately transfer the asparagus to the ice bath, and quickly re-cover the pot to continue steaming the eggs.

While the eggs are cooking, transfer the asparagus spears to a clean dish towel, and use another clean towel to thoroughly pat them dry.

When the eggs have cooked for 13 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the same ice bath, adding more ice cubes if needed, and let sit for a few minutes to cool. Peel the eggs immediately.

While the eggs are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey or agave, mustard, salt and a few grinds of black pepper until smooth and emulsified. Taste, and season with more salt if needed.

Transfer the asparagus to a platter, and drizzle all the dressing over the spears.

Cut the eggs in half and scoop out the yolks. Use the fine side of a box grater or a Microplane rasp grater to finely shred the egg whites, piling them in a strip across the asparagus. Use the same grater to shred the egg yolks, and sprinkle them over the whites, keeping the two distinct. (If you’d like, you can press the whites and the yolks through a fine-mesh strainer instead, or use a knife to finely chop them, keeping them separate.)

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Make ahead: The vinaigrette can be made, the asparagus and eggs steamed, and the eggs peeled up to two days in advance. Dress the asparagus and grate the eggs just before serving.

Storage: The composed dish is best when freshly made, but you can refrigerate it for up to four days.

Substitutions: To make it vegan, use grated or crumbled firm tofu instead of the egg whites and finely chopped or grated yellow bell peppers instead of the yolks, and use agave nectar instead of honey. Instead of olive oil, use 6 tablespoons of a neutral vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons walnut oil, toasted sesame oil or other favorite nut oil. Instead of lemon juice, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Parsley can be replaced with mint, cilantro or tarragon.