Monday, May 16, 2011


This year, April was in like a lion, out like a duck. April showers didn’t just bring May flowers, they brought a friggin’ flood. And it’s still raining. Our lake is swollen with rain and runoff, its cup runneth over into parking lots and basements, across lawns and roads and ferry docks. But it’s finally, fully spring—that’s rain, not snow, falling from the sky. Trees are shaggy with nascent leaves, the dark purple cones of lilacs are opening their tiny florets, there’s asparagus to be had at the farmers market.

This being Vermont in May, asparagus is just about all there is to be had at the farmers market, but I’m not complaining. Instead I’m browsing months-old “spring” issues of cooking magazines that arrived in my mailbox when the sidewalks were still covered by a carapace of ice, I’m flipping past recipes that call for fava beans and strawberries, English peas and new potatoes—the only potatoes at my farmers market are old potatoes. Asparagus is the star of the show right now, and since I know we have awhile to get reacquainted, I’m keeping it simple to start off.

Asparagus, raw, shaved into silky ribbons. A dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper.

The recipe I found for shaved asparagus salad is from Bon Appetit. When I described it to my stepmom, she said she’d made something similar after reading about it on Smitten Kitchen. Smitten’s version includes toasted pine nuts, which I think would be a nice, if expensive, touch, but what I love about this recipe is its simplicity—I don’t have to cook anything (or, the way it usually goes when I toast nuts, burn anything). And I love it’s taste, of course. The shaved asparagus is delicate, almost creamy, complemented but in no way overpowered by a simple dressing. Be liberal with the salt and pepper. And don’t be nervous about the fact that the asparagus is raw; there’s nothing woody about it, nothing tough. Winter’s over, and this recipe is pure, tender spring.

Notes: I ate individual portions of the salad for lunch over several days—3 spears of asparagus and ¼ of the dressing. While the dressing can be made ahead of time, I don't think I recommend peeling the asparagus in advance. And I used a combination of Parmesan and Locatelli cheeses.

Shaved Asparagus Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit

12 large asparagus spears (about 1 pound)
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan plus a piece for shaving
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel off the outer, dark-green layer of asparagus using a vegetable peeler, and discard it, along with the ends of the spears if they’re tough (mine were not). Use the vegetable peeler to shave the spears into long, thin ribbons, saving the tips as they break off. Transfer shaved asparagus and tips to a bowl.

Combine grated cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a small container with a tightly fitting lid. Shake vigorously until the oil is emulsified and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle vinaigrette over shaved asparagus and toss to coat. Divide asparagus salad among plates. Use peeler to shave more cheese over salad.


  1. Hey, GFD! I haven't checked in for a while, and it probably has something to do with the weather, which seemed to have sapped my will somewhere between March and the present - but as you say, it is raining and not snowing, and little green shoots are pointing out of the ground and the leaves are on the trees.

    Jacques Pepin has a gem of an asparagus recipe in his 'Fast Food My Way' cookbook - simply sauteed with 4-5 shallots in olive oil for about 8 minutes. He has a similar recipe which uses shallots and broad beans, which is also great with green beans and wax beans, and very useful when the crops start really coming in during late summer. I'm assuming we're still going to have a summer, but I think the anticipation may be tantamount to a test of faith...

  2. Delicious!! And I'm so glad you're back to cooking....I mean prepping.

  3. The force is not with me Obi Wan. It has been sucked out of me by 13 straight days of rain. There is not even a ray of sunshine in the forecast. Who lives like this?!?! You know what I'm eating for dinner? A bowl full of tears!

  4. It's the same weather in downeast Maine but the one good thing is that asparagus season goes on for MUCH longer than when it is warm and sunny. It was asparagus risotto last night -- fresh from the garden and delicious, but I still am craving sunshine.

  5. That asparagus sounds delicious, Amy -- do you recommend the cookbook? I'm nervous about summer, and I have no faith in Vermont weather, but this weekend, at least, is promising to be gorgeous, so there's that.

    Mostly prepping, EBids. Like Amy's, my will has been somewhat sapped.

    A bowl full of tears with raindrop sorbet for dessert, Mojie?

    I like your glass-half-full attitude, Sidekick. And asparagus risotto is the perfect recipe for this weather: taking advantage of the spring produce in a filling, hearty dish suitable for cold, rainy days.