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Simple Asparagus Salad

March 24, 2007

Spring is officially here! At least in Northern California anyway. Carrots are still fragrantly lifting their shoulders up out of the soil, cabbages are coming in all tightly bound up, and the leeks are marvelous. It seems that the winter produce coming from the CSA is as strong as ever, and then…Blip!…arugula and peas are back in the box. Another true sign that spring has actually sprung is that the first bunch of asparagus from Full Belly has arrived. One of my favorite, and perfectly simple, ways to prepare asparagus is as this simple cool salad. I’m fortunate here in that one of my neighbors has a beautiful meyer lemon tree which hangs over the fence…but you can use any lemon you have.
Here’s what you need:

1 Bunch Asparagus washed and with the thick bottoms removed
6-8 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced.
Peel of one 1/2 Meyer Lemon (or any ‘ol lemon), removed from the lemon in wide strips and the pith removed.
Juice from the same lemon, about 3-4 Tbs
A few sprigs of Rosemary
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Kosher Salt

Bring 6 qts. of heavily salted water to a boil.

Plunge asparagus into boiling water for approximately 90 seconds, or until just cooked. Strain then place spears in a lightly salted ice water bath to chill immediately.

Once asparagus are thoroughly chilled, remove from water and put them on a plate with a paper towel or two to soak up any excess water.

Transfer the spears to a 9″ x 9″ baking pan and cover with the olive oil. Lightly toss the asparagus to ensure even coating.

Using the back of your chef’s knife, gently bruise the rosemary and the lemon peels. You don’t want to break them apart too much, but you definitely want to release some of the volatile oils and fragances. Everything should smell nice and fine right now. Add the lemon peels, sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs to the pan, and again, lightly toss everything to ensure that the herbs, garlic and lemon peels are sharing the same oil as the vegetables, and that everyone’s nice and happy.

Grind some fresh black pepper over the spears and cover with plastic or foil wrap and place in the refrigerator ovenight, or for 4-6 hours minimum. Ideally, allow the asparagus to come to nearly room temperature before serving.

Generously sprinkle with fleur de sel, some fresh ground pepper and a few drops of the meyer lemon juice.

Use the remaining olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing for a side salad or as a seasoning for grilled fish or even scrambled eggs. It’s surprisingly delicious with scrambled eggs. Heck, it’s pretty good with eggs over-easy too with shaved truffles. It’s springtime, so celebrate.
Asp with Eggs

I’ll get into the scrambled egg recipe at another time, but suffice it to say for now that these were dosed with chili flakes, ricotta cheese and the oil drippings from the asparagus. These are some of the best scrambled eggs you will have ever tasted. Honestly.

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