Asparagus has been in season for awhile now but I've had it just a few times. It's a vegetable that I came to like as an adult, which is sad when I think back to my childhood where each spring my parent's garden would overflow with green spears. It would appear on my plate every evening, only to be reluctantly choked down, and only the tips at that.
It's still a vegetable that I find somewhat tricky to cook. It has a tough outer layer that sometimes needs peeling, but that depends on the size. Sometimes you need to peel, sometimes you don't. I must say I'm partial to very thin spears where peeling isn't necessary. They are so tasty when roasted in olive oil and sea salt. After an unseemly episode with thick, white asparagus earlier this year, I can report my dislike of thick asparagus. Better to puree it up into soup than try and cook it perfectly so that it's just-cooked but not mushy. Ick. I just don't understand the appeal of inch-thick asparagus.
So, on to a good asparagus recipe. This salad comes from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It's quite a simple salad, as most French salads are, sauf La Salade Niçoise, which takes some time. Asparagus is paired with fresh green beans and segmented citrus for a perky first course. He calls for orange, but I think grapefruit is nice, too.
Asparagus and Haricots Verts Salad
fresh, thin asparagus spears, trimmed, stems peeled
fresh haricots verts (thin French green beans), trimmed
1 orange or grapefruit, segmented
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
white pepper (didn't have, I used black)
Fill a large pot with water, add a few tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 5 minutes or until bright green and tender. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath. Once cold, remove the asparagus from the water and set aside.
Bring the same pot of water back to a boil and cook the beans for 5 minutes, then remove with the slotted spoon and drop into the ice bath. Set aside when cold.
Combine the oil, lemon juice in a small bowl. Mix in salt and pepper to taste. Pat the vegetables dry with paper towels. Combine them in a salad bowl and gently toss with vinaigrette. Add the orange segments and serve immediately.