Sunday, May 9, 2010

In the Raw

I spent many years feeling ambivalent towards asparagus.  It may have had something to do with the fact that I grew up in California and therefore had little sense of the seasons.  Near perfect weather year round (and access to great produce year round) makes the idea of a spring awakening seem absurd.

But now that I've been on the east coast long enough to have internalized the rhythms of a more extreme weather zone, spring and I have become very close friends indeed.  And as asparagus is one of the first harbingers of spring (and is considerably more delicious than ramps, another of the main indicators of spring), it has become one of my favorite vegetables.

In an effort to take full advantage of the asparagus season I have gotten in the habit of picking up a bunch of two at the Greenmarket each week, which means I have quite a few spears to contend with at any given time.  I've steamed them, poached them, blanched them, roasted them and thrown them in no end of pasta and risotto dishes.

But one evening as I was preparing the asparagus for dinner, washing the bunch and snapping off the tough ends, I noticed myself employing a "one for me, one for the pot" philosophy.  Crunching away on the raw asparagus I wondered why on earth I'd been bothering to cook it...asparagus is so delicious raw!  Assuming, I guess, that you have good farm fresh asparagus that is.

So I decided to take advantage of my access to such enviable asparagus and make a salad featuring the stuff.  Arugula (adult please, I can't take any more baby greens), a lemon vinaigrette and loads of parmesan cheese are, as it turns out, gorgeous accompaniments to my favorite vegetable of the season.

Arugula and Asparagus Salad

(I always make this in the bowl that I plan to serve the salad in to save washing up)

Juice of half of a lemon
Good pinch of salt
Olive oil to taste (I like it quite tart, but find the dressing is right once it becomes translucent assuming you are whisking consistently as the oil is added)

half a bunch of asparagus, tough ends snipped off, sliced in half inch intervals
a few handfuls of arugula, roughly chopped
a handful of grated parmesan

Whisk together vinaigrette in a good sized salad bowl.  Toss in asparagus and arugula, toss in vinaigrette.  Throw in parmesan and toss thoroughly.


Laura in Paris said...

I tried grilled green asparagus in ...California last month. Gotta try them raw now!

French Fancy said...

I've never heard of arugula - I wonder what it's called out here. As for green asparagus - I adore it.

Sneaky Magpie said...

Delicious! I have already made asparagus risotto and also ordered steamed asparagus with hollandaise last night in a restaurant. I love it shaved fresh in salads and my veg box started the season last week. Pure joy.

French Fancy, arugula=rocket salad.

Rob said...

Delicious! Arugula, known as rocket in the Uk. No one seems to know what either is in Toronto though -- not a very common leaf here.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Laura, I love your approach to saving a bowl when making vinaigrette. I'll have to try that! And French Fancy, I wish we called arugula 'rocket' in the US. It's a much cooler name.

Jane said...

I love asparagus raw but I tend to mainly steam it and eat it with lemon and butter. It is also nice put in a thin layer in an oven dish with butter and parmesan sprinkled over the top and then baked - it intensifies the flavour. ... and rocket is everywhere in Australia, so much so that people complain about it but I love the peppery taste.

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