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Nothing says SPRING to me like asparagus, when it finally shows itself at the farmers markets here in Seattle. As much as I love all the root vegetables available week after week during the cold winter months, when I spot asparagus for sale at the produce stalls I know we are on our way to more and more and more wonderful fruits and veggies. YAY!
This year U.S. supermarkets might have less asparagus available due to a diminished supply from Peru and Mexico (colder weather in Mexico). Happily, this won’t affect my local farmers markets, where the spears are grown nearby – just east of the Cascade Mountains.
There are varying opinions on how to select the best asparagus. In my humble opinion – the thinner the better. I find that the thicker stalks don’t have as much flavor as the thinner ones – plus they’re just never as tender as the pencil-thin stalks. Many disagree with me, touting the virtues of thicker asparagus. I guess it’s just a personal preference!
I’ve already decided that my first dish of the season in 2013 will be an asparagus salad – room temperature, of course. I rarely like vegetables super chilled – to me room temperature or warmer brings out more of the flavor. This salad pairs beautifully with roasted chicken thighs or simple fish.
Asparagus Avocado Salad with Citrus Sesame Dressing
- 1 large bunch of thin fresh asparagus-about 1 ½ pounds
- 2 large ripe avocados, flesh cut in pieces 1 ½ inch x ½ inch
- ½ cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely chopped or halved
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, cut into 1 ½ inch long thin slivers
- 2-3 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp sea salt and 10 grinds of fresh black pepper
- Honey to taste – about 2 tsp
Start the same way you do for marinated asparagus. Note, I usually simmer the asparagus for only 2 minutes if they are really thin.
Snap off the ends opposite the tips of the asparagus. Unless the stalks are pencil thin, I peel the stems with a veggie peeler (if thin, you can omit peeling), put in large deep sauté pan with an inch of water. (My sauté pan is 11 inches in diameter.) Bring to a boil, and lower to medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and barely tender when pierced with a fork. Leave the top off the fry pan when doing this. Remove the stalks of asparagus and put into ice water and let sit for 5 minutes. This stops the cooking and quickly cools the vegetables. Place the stalks onto a dry dish towel, making sure the water is absorbed, and then put in a sealed bag or container.
When ready to serve, cut the asparagus into 1 ½ inch pieces and place in a bowl with avocados, peppers and almonds. Combine the dressing ingredients (I put all the dressing ingredients in a jar and just shake it to combine). The dressing is rather thin. Taste and adjust the sweetness or saltiness to your palate) and toss gently through salad. Place into a serving bowl and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. Serve at once.
You cannot dress this salad ahead of time because the asparagus will turn dull green or brown.
Alternately, I have swapped out the peppers with sliced oranges or even red grapefruit slices.