Today’s featured vegetable is asparagus, the harbinger of spring. Okay I just made that up. But really, I feel like it’s safe to say spring has arrived when there are beautiful skinny stalks of asparagus in bunches everywhere you look, including the farmers’ market.
Skinny asparagus is not necessarily superior to fat asparagus, but it cooks so quickly and maintains a wonderful crunch. I’m a fan. I wasn’t always – in fact I remember a dark period in my past, probably about the first 16 years of my life, when I thought I hated asparagus. Then one day my mom roasted asparagus spears in sesame oil and convinced me to taste them. History was made.
Asparagus will last in your refrigerator for several days if you place the stalks in a tall glass, with just a couple of inches of water in the bottom. When you’re ready to use them, trim off the bottom 2 inches to eliminate any woodiness.
Today I decided to combine the antioxidant, potassium, and folate-rich asparagus with a late-winter/early-spring fruit that you absolutely need to check out. It’s the meyer lemon. It looks something like this:
Meyer lemons are slightly more orange in color than your typical lemon, and they are a little rounder, too. They also happen to have a much more interesting flavor, with some sweet notes that make them absolutely fantastic in desserts like lemon bars. But they have a tart side too, and were born to be in a vinaigrette. Paired with a bit of ginger and some garlic, these suckers make some pretty sassy dressing.
You could happily serve this asparagus and vinaigrette straight up as a first course, or over some mixed greens as a salad. I decided to make it a full meal by serving it over a bed of soba noodles, tossed very lightly with some sesame oil just to stop them from sticking, and topped with some scattered wedges of radishes (another fabulous spring vegetable).
This dish is simple, refreshing, and a great way to start your spring off right.
Asparagus with Meyer Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette (serves 2)
- 1 bunch of asparagus stalks (preferably thin), trimmed
- juice of 2 small meyer lemons (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of iced water nearby. Salt both the pot of water and the bowl of iced water. Drop the asparagus spears in the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the asparagus has an intense green color and has softened very slightly. Remove the asparagus spears with tongs and plunge them into the iced water immediately to stop the cooking process. Set aside to let them cool off. (Note: if you are making soba noodles, go ahead and cook them in the same boiling water after you remove the asparagus spears).
2. Whisk the meyer lemon juice, garlic, ginger, agave or honey, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Slowly stream in the olive oil, whisking constantly.
3. Drain the asparagus spears and drizzle with the vinaigrette. (If using the soba noodles, put them in a bowl first, lay the asparagus on top, and then drizzle with the vinaigrette). Don’t be too heavy-handed with the dressing; it’s pretty intense. You can always use the leftovers for a salad later on.