Asparagus with Parmesan and Arugula
I have wonderful asparagus memories. It is the nature of its season. The asparagus arrives, usually in early April, in great abundance. By the start of June, it is gone. You will still see it at the grocery, but not in the farmers’ markets. When it is fresh, and local, it dominates the options of what to cook. I always serve it with the arugula that has also just returned and a young Parmesan cheese. It seems to fit with both of them. When the asparagus is just right, you remember it. Make this wonderful dish with a light touch.
12-16 medium asparagus spears
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
115g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some grated and some in slices
1 lemon wedge
20g arugula, washed and spun dry
fresh ground black pepper
First, trim the asparagus, cutting 2.5 or 5cm) off the woody ends. With a swivel peeler, shave the bottom 7.5 to 10cm of the stalks, taking off the harder outer skin. As you work, set the peeled asparagus in a shallow dish filled with cold water. Soak it for 5 minutes, then drain. (This seems to rehydrate the asparagus and help it cook more quickly.)
Meanwhile, make a vinaigrette: In a small glass bowl, combine the vinegar and a good pinch of salt. After a minute, add the garlic and whisk in the olive oil and a few drops of water. It should thicken and smooth a little. Set it aside.
In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus lying flat, heat 5cm of water over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add a good pinch of salt, then add the asparagus and put a lid on the pan. Allow the water to return to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low to maintain a gentle boil. The asparagus should be done in 3 to 4 minutes, when they are slightly softened but still firm. If it is the very skinny early asparagus, it will be done in 1 minute. Better to be early – you do not want stringy, overcooked asparagus, and that can mean no more than 30 seconds too long. If you smell asparagus, you are at the edge of too long. Get them out quickly and drain them well.
Lay the asparagus on a warmed platter. Sprinkle them with some sea salt, some grated Parmesan, and a little lemon juice. Lay the arugula on top, add the vinaigrette and the shaved Parmesan, and finish with a couple grindings of black pepper.
Extracted from Five Ways to Cook Asparagus (and Other Recipes): The Art and Practice of Making Dinner by Peter Miller (Abrams, approx €22), http://abramsandchronicle.co.uk/books/food-and-drink/9781419723933-five-ways-to-cook-asparagus-and-other-recipes-the-art-and-practice-of-making-dinner
Photograph © 2017 Hirsheimer & Hamilton