It’s finally spring, and asparagus is abundant. Yay! Like many of you as well, I love asparagus. Simply steamed or packed into a savory pie, it’s just a lovely vegetable with a soft texture and a punch of flavor.
Since my blog is written primarily for people who are beginning cooks, or just trying out new foods, I’m doing a very simple post on asparagus, served as a salad.
Asparagus of course works well as a side vegetable, perhaps with a little olive oil and salt, or a tab of butter. But it really lends itself to a vinaigrette as well.
I use beets a lot in my cooking, including canned beets, and I always save the leftover beet juice. That way, I can reduce the juice and create a fabulous beet syrup that can be turned into a number of things, including this beet-apple vinaigrette I made in last fall.
Since it’s spring, I decided to lighten the vinaigrette up a little. I’m still calling it a vinaigrette, because I don’t like the word dressing, but there’s actually no vinegar in it. Just lemon juice.
So here’s what I did:
Asparagus with a Beet-Lemon Vinaigrette
Strained juice from 1 can (15 ounces) of beets
Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Few grindings of pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus
Place the beet juice in a small pan and begin reducing it over very low heat. It’s best not to leave the kitchen during this process because it can happen quickly.
I estimate about 1/3 cup of beet juice, originally, which reduces to about 2 tablespoons at the most. At this point, remove the syrup from the heat and immediately whisk in the lemon juice and oil. Whisk well, then add the salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, clean the asparagus, which means removing the stiff, woody ends, which are the ones that were closest to the dirt. I simply snap off the ends. Some people prefer to shave the ends, using a vegetable peeler. There’s really no right or wrong here. However, when you have a pile of asparagus ends, you can use them to make an asparagus broth using a little onion and garlic, and then use that for asparagus soup! It just adds a deeper flavor. Otherwise, the compost pile will enjoy them as well.
Personally, I only steam my asparagus. They can be steamed with any kind of contraption, as long as the asparagus is sitting over water, and the pan has a lid. Once the steaming begins, I don’t ever go beyond 5 minutes, but you’ll have to play with this time. Asparagus just isn’t good overcooked.
Place the warm asparagus on a plate, and add some of the beet-lemon dressing. Sprinkle with some extra pepper, if you like.
Also, a bit of crumbled goat cheese or chopped toasted walnuts would also be good on this salad. Or both! This would make a fabulous first course.
If you don’t like the look of the syrup separating from the oil, place the mixture first in a mini blender and emulsify it. If you prefer it a little creamier, add a 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise or cream.
Note: I know some people try to pick out the skinniest of asparagus, thinking that they are more tender, but having grown asparagus, they all come out of the ground in varying thickness, and are all tender, as long as the weather hasn’t gotten too hot.