Monday, April 18, 2011
Asparagus – Easter’s Favorite Side Dish
Asparagus is our favorite side dish to serve for Easter. It spells springtime for me and besides, almost everyone loves asparagus. Each year I try to find a new asparagus recipe to add to my every growing list of favorites. When I saw Grilled Asparagus & Melon Salad in Giada de Laurentiis cookbook Giada’s Kitchen – New Family Favorites I knew I had the perfect recipe for this year.
This is a very versatile recipe in that the asparagus can be cooked outside on a gas or charcoal grill or in your kitchen on a stove top grill, which is what I did. The melon and cheese make a great fresh topping full of flavor and have real eye appeal, plus it tastes great. What more can you ask for from a recipe?
I put my own twist on this by replacing the olive oil in the vinaigrette with pistachio oil and substituting pistachio nuts for the pine nuts Giada used. I happened to have a bottle of pistachio oil for a recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s that calls for dribbling a little pistachio oil over an avocado with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper that is divine. Feel free to use good extra virgin olive oil if you don’t have the pistachio oil.
Asparagus is one of the few vegetables where fat is better than thin. Look for straight, fresh looking, bright green stalks with compact tips. Asparagus is usually sold in bundles. When choosing a bundle, I first look at the tips for freshness, avoiding those with tips that are open, and then I turn the bundle over and look at the bottom of the stalks. If the bottoms look old and dry like a stick, don’t buy that bundle. Asparagus continues to age and toughen after it’s been harvested, so the sooner you cook it the better.
Grilled Asparagus & Melon Salad
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis – serves 4 to 6
2 ounces thinly sliced good prosciutto
1 pound asparagus, fat ends snapped off, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons pistachio oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
¼ of a small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels and chop the prosciutto into ¼” pieces.
Preheat a stove-top grill pan over medium high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes each side until crisp tender. Remove from grill and set aside.
Make vinaigrette by combing the lemon juice and the pistachio oil in a jar with a screw top lid. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and shake the vinaigrette well. Put the cantaloupe and cheese in a medium bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss carefully until combined.
Toast the nuts in a dry non-stick skillet over medium high heat until toasted, taking care not to burn the nuts. Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the cantaloupe and mozzarella cheese on top of the asparagus. Drizzle with any remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the prosciutto and nuts and serve.
These are two of my other of my favorite asparagus recipes.
Asparagus Goldenrod is an elegant, easy to prepare dish that can be made ahead of time. It’s perfect for a buffet and is a terrific dish served with baked ham. Basically it is poached asparagus, served cold with a light vinaigrette sauce and garnished with grated hard-boiled eggs. The name Goldenrod comes from the bright green asparagus garnished with yellow egg yolks. Classic dishes such as this were a mainstay on the menus of the grand hotels in a bygone era. It’s also known as Asparagus Mimosa because the grated hard-boiled eggs resemble mimosa blossoms. Here’s the recipe.
Asparagus with hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, and slivers of red onion tossed in a lemony olive oil vinaigrette. It’s easily put together in fifteen minutes or less and is very colorful on the plate. Hearts of palm give it a tropical twist. Here’s the recipe.
I wish everyone celebrating this special time of the year a joyous holiday.