This salad makes a perfect first course, arranged on individual plates. If you like, you can grill the asparagus instead of steaming it.
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and stems. Put them, skin-sides up, under a hot grill until the skin has blackened. Then wrap in a plastic bag or tin foil and leave on one side — this will make them easy to peel.
Unless they look coarse, cut only about 1.25cm/½ in off the asparagus stalks. Steam or boil them until just tender, then rinse immediately with cold water to cool and stop the cooking.
Put a dry frying pan over a high heat, add the pine kernels and stir for about a minute until toasted brown. Turn out of the pan and leave to cool. Peel the skin off the red peppers and, using a sharp knife, cut them lengthways into thin strips.
When ready to assemble the salad, arrange the asparagus on 4 serving plates, crossed with strips of pepper and sprinkled with toasted pine kernels. Put all the vinaigrette ingredients except the salt and pepper into a jam jar. Seal with a lid and shake vigorously to mix, then add salt and pepper to taste, just before serving, shake the jar again and spoon the dressing evenly over the salad.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.