The first time I made an asparagus salad, it was with walnuts and dates and pecorino cheese. My friend Jackie was over, and we were trying a new recipe.
And because Jackie’s always been a good sport about trying new things, including but not limited to kale chips, roasted broccoli, blackened salmon (which sadly, I have yet to post here because although it was perfection! I didn’t get any good pictures), sole amandine, cookies, cakes, even hummus scooped straight out of the container, slathered on wheat crackers from Trader Joe’s, it might not seem so significant to tell you she loved that salad. But we both did. Looking back, I have no idea what else we ate that day, but the asparagus salad? That I remember perfectly, especially how much I looked forward to eating it for the few days it lasted after.
Even remembering it now makes me want to run out for some dates and pecornio, so that’s why the next thing I have to say is so strange: despite how much we both loved that salad and despite its starring role in the meal we ate that day, the next time I made an asparagus salad wasn’t until almost a year later—last week, in fact, when I brought home that bunch of fresh asparagus from the farmers’ market.
I don’t know how to explain this apparent contradiction. I mean, being over the moon about something does not exactly equal ignoring it for twelve months, you know? When you like a person, you don’t delete her from your phone’s contact list. When you like a place, you don’t avoid it altogether. It’s weird. It doesn’t make sense. I am annoyed with myself for waiting so long.
But my one consolation is that I didn’t forget that salad completely. No, sir. And so when I washed off my fresh asparagus spears the other day, my mind immediately went back to that happy salad with Jackie and how much we both enjoyed it and how I needed to do something like that again.
Where the first version used dates and pecorino and walnuts, this one has toasted almonds and broccoli florets and shaved Parmesan. I can’t say for sure which I liked better, although, to be honest, the more I talk about the first one, the more I think I need to try it again. But what I will tell you is that this version is light and crunchy, drenched in a delicious homemade dressing of lemon and oil and onion, and it feels as fresh on your tongue as the air feels on your face this time of year. I’m rather glad it found me, even if it took a while, and I hope for both of our sakes that more asparagus salads find their way into my life soon.
Asparagus Salad Recipe
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
12 spears of thick asparagus, sliced into 1/4-inch thick coins
5 or 6 broccolini (or broccoli) florets, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
big pinch of salt
1/4 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup almonds, toasted, and coarsely chopped
a few tiny radishes (I had 3), washed, trimmed and very thinly sliced
zest of one lemon
a bit of shaved Parmesan
Wash the sliced asparagus and chopped broccolini well and set aside. Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, salt, onion and olive oil. Stir in the toasted almonds. Set aside.
To cook the veggies, place a splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the asparagus and broccolini. Toss well and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook for one minute. Stir again, taste a piece, and cover again for another minute – but only if needed. You don’t want to overcook the vegetables here, they should be bright and with a bit of bite to them. When the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the heat and stir in the radishes and lemon zest. Taste, add a bit of salt if needed. Toss with 1/3 of the dressing, adding more as needed – I used almost all of it, but the original recipe mentioned you’d have some leftover.
Turn everything out onto a platter and finish with some shaved Parmesan.