I always keep an eye out for ways to dress up basic asparagus, which is always a favorite in our house. We serve asparagus several ways, but our two favorite ways are as a salad dressed with different vinaigrettes or napped with a simple lemon butter sauce as a side dish.
Today I have an asparagus salad, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, served over baby arugula, then gussied up with a topping of chopped roasted red peppers, red onion, and kalamata olives.
Don’t let the length of the recipes below scare you. I’ve broken it down into three recipes because the first two – poached asparagus and the balsamic vinaigrette - are very basic recipes that are nice to know how to make without needing a recipe. The last is the gussied up part – the arugula and the topping of roasted red peppers, red onion, and kalamata olives. This is super easy to prepare - yet I think you will agree with me – it is very impressive on the plate.
Basic Recipe for Poached Asparagus
From My Carolina Kitchen – Sam Hoffer
1 lb fresh asparagus, tough lower ends snapped off
2 teaspoons salt
Water flavored with low sodium, low fat beef broth* to taste
After the tough ends of asparagus have been removed, peel the remaining ends unless the asparagus is thin; if thin, leave as is. Bring water flavored with beef broth and salt to a boil in a shallow pan. Add asparagus, turn heat to low and cook for about 4 minutes until asparagus is crisp tender, taking care not to overcook. Immediately plunge the asparagus in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and retain the green color. After a minute or two, remove the asparagus and dry well with a towel. You may either chill it for about an hour, wrapped, or serve at room temperature dressed with vinaigrette of your choice.
*I like to flavor my asparagus water with beef broth because it brings a very nice flavor to the cooking broth and thus the cooked asparagus itself.
From My Carolina Kitchen – Sam Hoffer
Balsamic vinaigrette differs from a traditional oil & vinegar vinaigrette in that it has less oil to vinegar from the standard 3 to 1 oil to vinegar ratio of a traditional vinaigrette. Mustard is used for flavor and as an emulsifier.
1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, either regular or grainy
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, add the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Shake well and set aside. If you want a milder vinaigrette with less emphasis on the flavor of the vinegar, use 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Easily doubled or tripled.
Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper, and Arugula Salad
Adapted from Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler – makes 4 appetizer salads
Balsamic vinaigrette from above recipe, doubled
1 lb freshly poached asparagus, prepared from above basic recipe
1 bag (5 ounces) baby arugula
1 roasted red bell pepper, thinly sliced and then chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Double the basic recipe for a balsamic vinaigrette, using the grainy mustard, and set aside. I used aged red balsamic vinegar, but if you wish use a white one for this as was called for in the original salad recipe from Simple Salads. Prepare the basic recipe for poached asparagus above. Layer the asparagus in a row on top of the arugula either on individual serving plates or on a serving platter. Generously drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette, then garnish with the roasted red peppers, red onion and olives. Grind a little freshly ground black pepper over the salad. Good served at room temperature.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.