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.