Spring is here! And with it comes a wide variety of vegetables that we have been waiting for all winter. One of the early stars of the season is asparagus. It can be found from February to June, and comes in different varieties, from white to green to purple, each with its own flavor, texture and size.
Asparagus is perfect in soups or on its own, simply steamed and garnished with a little olive oil and sea salt. It's so good fresh that it hardly needs much adornment.
But it also makes a great addition to all sorts of salads, which is how we are using it here. Mixed with spicy arugula and yellow beets, topped with Parmesan crisps and drizzled with a citrus parsley vinaigrette, it announces the new season with tang and freshness.
- 2 bunches asparagus
- 8 cups baby arugula
- 1 large yellow beet
- 2 Tbsp. roughly chopped spring garlic (or one garlic clove, peeled)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- sea salt
- black pepper
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add beet and cook until soft, about 40-60 minutes, depending on size. Drain and allow to cool.
Add olive oil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. sea salt to a high speed blender. Blend on high until thoroughly combined, a few seconds.
Chop off woody ends of asparagus. Cover the bottom of a large saute pan with 1/2 inch of water and 2 tsp. sea salt. Mix well. Add asparagus (you may need to do 2 batches, depending on the size of the pan), cover, and bring to a boil, cooking the asparagus until soft, about 2-3 minutes, depending on size. Asparagus are ready when they feel soft, but still al dente, when pricked with a fork. Drain and allow to cool, then chop into bite-size pieces.
Drop Parmesan, 1 Tbsp at a time, onto baking sheet, leaving enough separation between each crisp. Flatten slightly using the back of a spoon. Add some freshly ground black pepper to the top of each crisp.
Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and lay to dry on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Allow to cool completely before crumbling into small pieces.
Slice off ends of beet and peel. Chop into bite-size pieces.
Add asparagus, arugula, and beet, to a salad bowl. Mix in dressing.
Serve immediately with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan crisps as a garnish.