21 May 2010

Asparagus Salad, a la naturelle

You might think that I am a raw food devotee by many of the simple selections I publish here, but actually I'm not really, although I do enjoy them. What I am, is continually surprised at how such simple preparations can really make an ingredient sing a tune I have never experienced before. Which brings me round to the much revered asparagus, well at least revered by me. It has always been one of my favorite vegetables and made me feel so worldly as a kid when we had them at home. It was a vegetable that more times than not came out of a can and infrequently at that, but still made my heart skip a beat and put a smile on my face whenever  it was on the family meal.  With 3 growing boys in our family, asparagus was a luxury item and I don't recall ever foraging for the wild ones until I was on my own during college and delighted to discover what a fun outing that could be. I studied horticulture when in college and often thought that  a patch of asparagus and some small fruit trees would suit me as a small scale farmer. Alas, that is not how things turned out, which is just fine, but still think some day I will be somewhere to put some 30 year crowns down, not only for ourselves but for whomever would come next.
I know wild asparagus foraging time is long past by now for most of you, but we are seeing the last of the tender stalks in the market these days and after having bought an extraordinary amount of the big fat stemmed variety the other day I tried them a new way; raw as a salad. We have have such a range of varieties this year, and it still is a bit of a luxury item, but so wonderful and such a short lived season that hey, you gotta  splash out every once in a while. If you can find some very fresh meaty stemmed stalks, do try slicing them razor thin on a mandolin or slaw cutter, toss with your favorite vinaigrette and  serve as a refreshing side salad. It pairs up nicely with poached salmon or saltimboca that we like to make with turkey cutlets. You will find a light spring meal that works well on a brunch buffet also. If you can't  find the thick ones try another easy asparagus antipasto idea here that I have made with a piece of puff pastry, some gorgonzola and asparagus, baked to crispy deliciousness. Just don't let asparagus season bypass you.
Asparagus Viniagrette

for 2 recipe, easily increased

1/2 lb (250g) fresh fat stalks asparagus

Fresh herbs, like basil, dill, chervil, tarragon chives
Olive oil, extra virgin
vinegar of choice, apple, red wine, tarragon, etc
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Wash and dry your stalks
Trim the tough bottoms off leaving plenty of stem
With a vegetable peeler clean the bottom 1/3 of the stems to remove the tough outer skin.
My stalks were quite long so I cut them in half before slicing
Take 3 stalks and slice thing on your vegetable slicer
I think you won't get them thin enough slicing by hand and that is really the key to this flavorful salad
Set aside while you make your vinaigrette

I am not big on measuring for vinegrettes and usually keep doctoring till I reach my desired flavor
You want to have between 1/3 to half cup of dressing, dressing to taste. 

I use the standard proportion of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil.
I find that it can be a bit tart, so I often add an additional tablespoon or so of balsamic to add a bit of sweetness. You can use just straight balsamic, but I often find that a tad too sweet, so I often use a combination of both vinegars to make a nice balance for the salad. If you want it more sweet,  use more balsamic, more tart, apple or red wine vinegar. If you don't have balsamic but want it a bit sweeter, try a dash of brown sugar, but not too much.

As far as herbs, I would say keep to perhaps just one  fresh herb as the flavor of the asparagus could easily be overwhelmed with herbs and you really want to enhance it flavor not drown it out.  The only exception might be to use chives with one other herb and I think you will find a nice balance.
Use 2 Tb of the fresh herbs. Dried herbs can be substituted, but use much less as they are concentrated flavor and quite different from the fresh herb.

Pour the vinaigrette over the sliced asparagus, let stand at least 15 minutes at room temperature before serving, making sure to toss just before serving and adjusting your seasoning if necessary.

Post Script
I told Davide, whose family farm over in Scalenghe produced these delectable treats, that I had written a post featuring his fat boy asparagus. He was so happy that I thought I would put a photo of his spears in this post. This was what was left over at the end of a busy Saturday market.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Such a simple preparation Marla but certainly worthy of every finger stroke of the keyboard.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Val, and worthy of every nervous slice made with the nerve wracking mandoline....

Kalyn Denny said...

I love the sound of this, perfect when asparagus is so fresh and lovely.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

YES, I have just enough for dinner salad for two tonight!
Every key stroke and the mandoline!

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Kaylyn and Tanna, it is such a fresh sweet flavor, I can't believe I have never gotten around to eating it this way before. I hope you enjoy it.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That is definitely my kind of recipe.

hotel maritim berlin said...

This recipe is something different and hope I can have a taste of it tonight.

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