Tuesday, May 24, 2011

asparagus caesar salad

asparagus caesar salad

Poor Caesar salad. For the remainder of Spring and all of Summer it’s filed away, not once remembered. We think of it only when the weather turns on us – cold rain becomes an everyday thing, sweaters and scarves emerge, and we put away iced coffee and leave home clutching our thermal mug full of the hot stuff.

I, for one, lament this unceremonious Caesar salad dismissal. I miss the emulsion of lemon, garlic, Parmesan, anchovy, and olive oil, and could eat it practically every day. I’ve been known to make this slurry and slather it on a thick piece of country bread. It’s so good, so potent, so unapologetically bold – it’s not some small-time vinaigrette, delicately coating your salad leaves.

asparagus caesar salad

No, this stuff is heady, pungent, there’s-no-turning-back gutsy. It doesn’t sit there in the background while your salad greens get all the glory. This dressing takes center stage, right alongside your lettuce, just as prominent, never a back-up player. And just because it’s got such chutzpa, for a salad dressing that is, why not embrace it all year round? Isn’t there room for food that impudently asserts – here am I! Take me as I am.

I decided to do just that when I lugged home several pounds of asparagus from the farmers’ market. Something happens to me this time of year. After a long stretch of brown food, tubers, and piping hot liquids, all I want to do is eat things that are green. I see asparagus and I totally lose it. Especially those thin, delicate, bright green stalks – the young stuff, just out of the ground. Artichokes are my best friends now (more on that next week), thanks to a helpful and informative video Melissa shot a few weeks ago, while I was on kitchen prep duty.

asparagus caesar salad

And here’s the kicker – I didn’t care for either the artichokes or the asparagus until last year! I used to wonder why people just would go crazy it when asparagus arrived, and now – I’m one of them. Now I’m one of those loons who buys three pounds of asparagus at once. Who am I? What have I become?

So I was wondering out loud, while peeling carrots, as to what to do with my asparagus. No one else was at home – I was simply talking to myself, just walking myself through the motions of dinnertime and cooking. And looking down upon pretty carroty ribbons it hit me – asparagus Caesar salad!

I’d shave the asparagus and then toss it with my favorite dressing. It’d be spring on my plate, but bolder with more charisma. Instead of sheer lip gloss, my salad was going to be wearing red lipstick. It sounded like a good idea, so I got right to work.

asparagus caesar salad

By the time Andrew arrived home, the salad was dressed, and the shaved asparagus was mingling nicely with the dressing. We loved it so much, we ate it, also, the following night, and then I made it again for myself for lunch one afternoon while working from home.

And so three pounds of asparagus – gone like it wasn’t even here in the first place. Caesar salad, or at least my seasonal version of it – is here to stay all year round.

Asparagus Caesar Salad

I know that some of you are going to be turned off this salad because of the anchovies. I implore you – if you haven’t already – do give them a chance. If you, however, absolutely cannot do the anchovy part, simply skip that and just add a bit more salt, to your taste.

Ingredients:
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
3 anchovies, minced into a paste
1 large garlic clove, minced into a paste
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lemon
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Chili flakes (optional)

Preparation:

1. Holding the tip of your asparagus, use a vegetable peeled (y-shaped is best) to create ribbons of asparagus. Place ribbons in a large salad bowl and combine them with the asparagus tips that will remain behind.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the anchovies, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice to emulsify. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and toss together to combine. Serve with a sprinkling of the flaky sea salt and a few turns of your pepper grinder. Sprinkle a dash of chili flakes, if you like.

Serves 2 to 4.

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34 Comments

  • 1

    This is a beautiful and fresh adaptation of the old caesar! Love how asparagus is so seasonal in Europe and elsewhere in the Northern hemisphere. Here in Australia we tend to get it almost all year around, but the best ones are still available only in spring.

    May 25, 2011 3:54 am
  • 2
    Elena said:

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, but never left a comment. Just want to say that it brightens my day everytime and always bring fresh inspiration. I live in southeastern Europe, so I love hearing about all the Russian foods. So much of it is similar to here! Thanks for an exciting blog. :)

    May 25, 2011 4:01 am
  • 3
    Ruth said:

    What a genius idea – asparagus caesar. Thanks for sharing!

    May 25, 2011 5:28 am
  • 4
    Cheri said:

    Sounds fabulous — I’m going to try it today! Also wanted to say that I have substituted mashed up capers for anchovies and like the result.

    May 25, 2011 8:21 am
  • 5
    Radish said:

    Cheri – that’s a really great idea!

    May 25, 2011 9:14 am
  • 6
    Caroline said:

    I don’t eat Caesar salad enough, thanks for the reminder!

    May 25, 2011 9:27 am
  • 7

    Shaved asparagus salad seems like quite the trend these days! Interestingly, I ran across a recipe in an old Chez Panisse cookbook the other day so it’s obviously been around a while, but I’ve never come across it prepared that way until recently. I made my first one last night, with olive oil, lemon juice, ricotta salata and chopped pistachios. I’m not embarrassed to admit I inhaled it, it was so good!! My peeler made very thin ribbons; I can picture the Caesar dressing working well if my ribbons had been a tad thicker, though. I’ll have to experiment with different peelers.

    May 25, 2011 9:46 am
  • 8

    Isn’t it amazing that tastes can change? I–get this–once didn’t like chocolate. Shock! But it’s true. It actually wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I was just indifferent to it. I could have gone my whole life without eating it and not missed it. Until a certain someone took me to Maison du Chocolat. Sheesh! Can’t live without it now. So here’s to chocolate and asparagus. Only maybe not together.

    May 25, 2011 10:13 am
  • 9
    Radish said:

    Mark – i just envisioned chocolate covered asparagus and shuddered :) raising my glass of lemon water to both, but separately!

    May 25, 2011 10:26 am
  • 10
    Molly said:

    Oh wow, oh wow! You should talk out loud to yourself more often, because this was a fantastic idea. For some reason, we haven’t started to get fresh local asparagus up here in Boston. I’m guessing with the opening of the farmers markets next week that will change. For now, I will gaze longingly into your photos.

    May 25, 2011 10:27 am
  • 11

    I’ve seen a number of recipes for shaved asparagus floating around this season and I can’t yet bring myself to spend that much time with a peeler and the tiny spears. But I do love the idea of salty, tangy dressing and earthy asparagus…

    May 25, 2011 10:31 am
  • 12

    I actually really love anchovies. My dad puts them on pizza, and I grew up with them. I know I’m in the minority, though.

    I’ve been seeing shaved asparagus pop up in recipes — I like the idea but have never tried it. Love the idea of using it place of salad greens — especially with Caesar dressing. Looks beautiful, too.

    May 25, 2011 10:34 am
  • 13
    Rachel said:

    What a fabulous idea. Can’t wait to try it!

    May 25, 2011 11:14 am
  • 14
    Jess said:

    This looks delicious! I have been obsessing over the asparagus this season too. While anchovies normally aren’t my thing, I’m trying to be a bit more adventurous with my cooking. But I’ve never even seen an anchovy in a home kitchen.

    How does one prepare an anchovy? Do they only come in cans, or are there fresh ones? Do you remove anything before mincing, or just chop the whole thing up?

    May 25, 2011 11:57 am
  • 15
    Radish said:

    Jess – that’s an excellent question. Anchovies can be REALLY yucky (if they’re bad) or really delicious (if they’re quality). Roland (a brand widely available) makes a great cooking anchovy. For eating plain, I really like the Ortiz brand (which comes with its own tiny fork!), but they are pricy. However, the good ones are really worth the splurge. Try Roland first. Look for anchovies that are either packed in salt or in olive oil (other oil is a sure sign of bad quality). With those packed in salt you’ll have to rinse the salt off. I prefer those packed in olive oil and where i can see the fishies. When you take them out of the jar, just chop them into a paste – those tiny bones dissolve, so no need to debone. If i were to have a crostini with anchovy, I would go with Ortiz brand though. For this salad, Roland can be just fine.

    May 25, 2011 12:16 pm
  • 16
    Jess said:

    Excellent! That’s exactly the info I was looking for. Thanks Ms. Radish.

    May 25, 2011 12:52 pm
  • 17

    This sounds about perfect!

    May 25, 2011 3:59 pm
  • 18
    Stasy said:

    Dear Olga!
    Thank you for your delicious recipe. It was really amazing and gorgeous. I’m absolutely agree with you about asparagus. I’ve just bought 4 pounds a couple days ago and only a bunch left today. My family and I love it in any variety. Asparagus Caesar Salad will be often guest at my dinner table! I would say in Russian – “otval bashki”:-))))

    May 26, 2011 11:51 am
  • 19
    Radish said:

    Stasy – that is quite the compliment (in Russian!) thank you thank you!

    May 26, 2011 12:12 pm
  • 20

    Olga – You’ve hit my love of both asparagus and anchovies here. I adore both and have always found the pairing to be a marvelous one.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

    May 26, 2011 4:49 pm
  • 21
    Kalyn said:

    What a great idea! And anchovies are fine with me.

    May 26, 2011 5:05 pm
  • 22
    JulieD said:

    What a wonderful idea. I love your twist on a caesar salad! It was wonderful to meet you a week ago at BlogHer Food. :)

    May 28, 2011 8:01 pm
  • 23

    I’m back to report… this is a wonderful recipe! It was a hit at dinner tonight!

    May 28, 2011 8:56 pm
  • 24
    Radish said:

    JulieD – likewise! and thank you!

    Brian – so glad you guys enjoyed it!

    May 29, 2011 7:49 am
  • 25
    alison said:

    I made this caesar asparagus salad this weekend and it was delicious! Absolutely delicious. Some people thought it was a bit too garlicky or too lemony but I thought it was divine (and, yes, I used anchovies). Thank you for the great idea!

    May 31, 2011 4:35 pm
  • 26
    Radish said:

    Alison – yay! so so glad you liked it. I understand the garlicky/lemony thing, but I prefer bolder notes. I suppose people can scale back according to their preferences. So glad you liked it!

    May 31, 2011 5:06 pm
  • 27

    I made this the other day as a quick lunch and it was SO delicious! Raw shaved asparagus is a totally different animal than cooked asparagus–so refreshing!

    June 14, 2011 12:44 pm
  • 28

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