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.

67 comments:

  1. My asparagus is just coming up and I am looking forward to trying all three of these!

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  2. The first asparagus always marks the start of warmth and the harbinger of summer! Wonderful photos, Sam.

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  3. Asparaguses are so versatile and delicious! That salad looks delightful.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. Beautiful Sam! I think the same you say, about asparagaus! is a lovely side dish, you are in spring.
    We are begining the Autumn but I love asparagaus, yummy!! gloria

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  5. You have highlighted three beautiful asparagus dishes here, Sam! I've always loved the look of Giada's salad and love what you have done by adding pistachios and pistachio oil. The asparagus goldenrod looks wonderful too! Have a Great Easter!

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  6. Thanks for sharing these recipes! Perfect timing! I am a huge fan of the infused oils...they really do just add that little extra something! Beautiful...

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  7. Spring and asparagus synonymous! Thank you for sharing your recipes.

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  8. I have yet to meet an asparagus recipe that I didn't like. You and Giada have created a dish I am anxious to try. Alas, we are still waiting on asparagus and melons in this area but soon!!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  9. Oh my! Do you have another seat at your table?

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  10. I hope you are OK; we keeping hearing about the storms in Carolina!
    Thank you for this recipe; will go very well with my ham dinner for Easter; printing it out right now!
    Rita

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  11. visiting around in blog land and landed here...I bet toasted pine nuts would taste great in that first dish...which looks fabulous! I'm your neighbor to the north and hoping you're weathering those spring storms.

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  12. WOW...what great ideas for next days..thanks a lot and happy Easter, hugs, Flavia

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  13. Such a pretty dish and so tasty. Have a blessed Easter with your family and loved ones xx

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  14. They sure make beautiful dishes. I'll have to try these. Lovely Sam.

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  15. I think using the pistachio mash up was a great idea and an awesome way to personalize the dish. It looks beautiful! I reckon it tastes great as well ;)

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  16. Sam, I would be SO happy with any of these methods ~ they all look gorgeous.

    Hope you are safe... the images on the news are horrific. My heart and prayers are with everyone affected by the devastation. xo ~m

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  17. These all look totally delicious!!!

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  18. Where you been girl? They all look very good, but I might have to go with the egg topped one :-).

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  19. This looks so tasty and the asparagus looks so fresh!

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  20. Hello,

    Love these recipes!


    ~ Gabriela ~

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  21. They all look good but I think I favor the one with the melon salad because that is such an unexpected combination and it screams SPRING!

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  22. Hi Sam - You have chosen well - This sounds such a delightful side dish and with the texture of melon and pistachio nuts adding that wonderful surprise element!! Asparagus always looks pretty on the plate. xx

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  23. That is one wonderful jazzed-up asparagus! I must get a hold of pistachio oil - seeing it more and more and would like to sample. I love the bright melons with this - so much beautiful contrast after an increasingly graying winter.

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  24. Thanks so much for sharing this. A salad full of eye appeal indeed. I love the addition of canteloupe and your inspired substitution of pistachio nuts and oil. Happy Easter!

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  25. Hi Sam! Long time, no comment here, but I couldn't let this post go by without saying how much I love your asparagus recipes. I made the Asparagus Goldenrod for Easter last year and my husband declared it to be his absolute favorite preparation of this spring veg! Summer is in full swing here in Manila and this Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad sounds perfect for a light meal. Thank you again for sharing these delightful recipes!

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  26. We start to see them in stores in Canada. I love eating them just roasted with a bit of salt. This looks good for a change.

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  27. I'm not sure that I've ever seen pistachio oil but I bought fresh mozz today at Lowes because it was a BOGO and I knew I'd find something fun with it. This would make a great first course for Easter dinner!

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  28. You may have just done the impossible - make me think I should try asparagus again. :) It really does look delicious.

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  29. Asparagus is always on our Easter table too. I love all the ideas you've shared. I'm always worried about melons at this time of year but the variation with hearts of palm and tomatoes sounds perfect!

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  30. Hi Sam, we love asparagus too! I've a yummy ecipes too, asparagus mimosa. Here's the recipe, it's from Williams-Somoma

    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/warm-asparagus-with-eggs-mimosa.html?cm_src=RECIPESEARCH

    I'm going to check out Giada's. Happy Easter!

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  31. We love asparagus, too. I just purchased some last night.

    These all look delicious and tempting, and I am always looking for new ways to serve it.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  32. Love the idea for Asparagus Melon Salad; just gorgeous!

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  33. We are huge asparagus fans here and I have had my eye on Giada's melon version for quite some time. I may just have to give it a go!

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  34. Sam, these look absolutely delicious! I love the look of goldenrod version.
    Hugs,
    Terr(I have a feeling I have met you in person...I wonder where?)

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  35. I have never heard of pistachio oil before. Sounds like something I need to try.

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  36. The asparagus melon combo is not one I'd have thought of-- sounds promising. We devoured our first few asparagus this evening along with our shitakes and garlic chives. I look forward to trying these recipes!

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  37. Sam, these look delicious. I roasted some asparagus recently, and I wish I'd thought of melon and cheese. You're a genius!

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  38. Beautiful, Sam! Three asparagus recipes to add to my repertoire. The melon would be so refreshing and different. Think I will try that one first.
    And I so agree about fat asparagus!

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  39. I think you've given us the cook's equivalent of a triple play. All of these dishes look wonderful. I'd enjoy any or all of them. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

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  40. Oh asparagus is my favorite! These all look so great, thanks for posting!

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  41. Each dish looks delicious. You have taken asparagus to a new level! Blessings and Happy Easter. Catherine xo

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  42. oh my goodness, how beautiful, all of them! i would never think to do those things with asparagus, but it looks SO good.

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  43. Asparagus is one of my favorites as well - such a bright addition to the table. I love the idea of the sweet fruit here complementing the earthiness of the asparagus. Hope you have a lovely Easter holiday, Sam!

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  44. I love asparagus and I am always on the lookout for new recipes... these all look great!

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  45. love asparagus what a wonderful recipe have a great Easter Sam hugs

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  46. Sam, I am really intrigued by the grilled asparagus and melon. What a nice flavor combination. Love all these dishes with asparagus.

    Happy Easter to you and the family.

    Velva

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  47. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your kind words. :)

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  48. Sam, I love all your asparagus recipes. I just wish my hubby ate asparagus, it's so hard just cooking for one.

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  49. This sounds amazing. We have asparagus in the garden at the moment. Diane

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  50. Asparagus is definitely my favorite of spring vegetables, I have 3 stalks in my garden now!
    I also featured asparagus recipes for Easter. I vote for the middle asparagus platter w/ the chopped eggs.....my favorite!
    Have a happy Easter Sam!

    Stacey

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  51. PS
    Love the Meakin tea leaf ironstone platter!

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  52. I love grilled asparagus, it brings out the best in them. If Larry has any left in his garden in June, I'll distract him while you raid the garden, okay? :-)

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  53. Asparagus is my springtime "go to" vegetable and that first recipe will be on my table this weekend! My husband is happy with asparagus anyway I prepare it and we often have it cold, sparsley drizzled with olive oil and sea salt/coarse pepper -- not special but easy and delish.

    Great post, mon amie!

    Bises,
    G

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  54. I always look for the big fat spears as well, Sam. I'm going to try all 3 of your fantastic recipes. I just have to figure out which one to try first.

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  55. I like the thick spears too, my husband prefers the pencil ones. Fortunately I do the grocery shopping so I get the fatter ones whenever they are available.

    I would have never dreamt of asparagus with melon, it sounds so refreshing! I will have to try avocados with pistachio oil.

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  56. Holy cow, this looks fantastic! The colors are simply gorgeous and I'm totally intrigued by the pistachio oil! Wonderful. Have a wonderful Easter, Sam =)

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  57. MMMMmmmm!! Thanks for the asparagus buying tips - I've never been sure which ones to choose ;)

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  58. That looks amazing, and sounds sooooo good!! Putting prosciutto and cheese on the asparagus is a fantastic idea, it must taste like heaven!!!

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  59. I love fresh asparagus and it is a local specialty but for now the thick white asparagus just began making its appearance on the market. I love all of your variations. It really is the perfect spring sidedish! And I have long been tempted to buy a bottle of pistachio oil but haven't yet; now I absolutely must! Happy Easter, Sam!

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  60. Love the idea of mixing melon with asparagus! All these look fantastic.

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  61. You have made me so hungry with all of these asparagus variations Sam! I am thinking of what to bring in June to the gathering, not sure what, but it will be green!

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  62. The pairing of asparagus with melon and pine nuts sound fantastic, an excellent idea!

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  63. Will be passing your site to my asparagus friends~so many great ideas!

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  64. Beautiful dish and I love the substitution. I've had such a bad time with pine nuts it's not even funny. I've been eating so much asparagus these days, it's nice to see a new way to serve it.

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  65. I don't know why I missed this post of yours, Sam, must have been in my insanely busy final exam week. But anyhow, I love all 3 of your asparagus recipes! Each on is perfect for Easter and spring! The last recipe has to be wonderful with one of my favorite ingredients, Hearts of Palms . . . something I don't find on many blogs. I'll email me these recipes so I can print them off when I get home! Thanks for sharing!

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Sam