Asparagus deserves the royal treatment. Long, lean, and delicately flavored, it has an inherent grace that dignifies any dish, including this main-course salad of rice, ham and green onions. It tastes best at room temperature and holds up well on buffets.
To crisp-cook asparagus for use in this (or any) salad, steam it over--or immerse it in--boiling water until barely tender, from 2 to 6 minutes, depending on its thickness. (If the spears vary in girth, cook the thicker ones briefly before adding the thinner ones.) Plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking and set the bright color, then drain and blot it dry.
Combine vinegar, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to taste; whisk in oil.
Cook rice according to package directions; cool to warm temperature.
Toss rice and dressing in bowl. When cool, add remaining ingredients and adjust seasonings and other ingredient amounts to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Copyright by Terese Allen