Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable. When the flowering tips of asparagus start popping out of the ground, you know warmer temperatures are just around the corner. Asparagus comes in a beautiful, soft green hue, but you can also find white and purple asparagus. These varietals are likely to be higher priced, but try them—they are often sweeter in flavor than the more familiar green asparagus.
There are a few tricks to this recipe worth mentioning. Use the fattest asparagus spears you can find for the greatest yield. Use a sharp cheese slicer or add some muscle if you use a vegetable peeler—you are aiming for nice ribbons of asparagus, not shreds. And, finally, have a plan for the leftover bits and tips. Roasting the beautiful tips is a great option, and the remaining bits can be used to great effect in soup.
Shaved Asparagus and Parmesan with Lemony Dressing
- For the asparagus:
1 pound asparagus—thick stalks are recommended
Lots of fresh parmesan, shaved
4 tablespoons sliced almonds
- For the dressing (makes extra):
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemons, preferably organic
2/3 cup best quality olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard, Dijon or country style
Pinch of salt
- Toast sliced almonds until fragrant in an oven or in a saucepan on the stovetop, about 5 minutes (see Beginner’s Notes).
- Holding each asparagus spear by its tip, shave ribbons off the spear using either a sharp cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler, pulling the slicer or peeler away from you.
- Place ingredients for dressing into a jar, cover, and shake well to blend ingredients.
- Add desired amount of dressing to shaved asparagus.
- Top shaved asparagus with a generous amount of shaved parmesan and the toasted sliced almonds.
- Shaved Asparagus Salad with Roasted Tips. Place leftover asparagus tips on a baking sheet, toss with a little olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees. Add roasted asparagus tips to the raw, shaved asparagus.
- Shaved Asparagus Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts. For a Greek flair, substitute crumbled feta for the Parmesan and pine nuts for the sliced almonds.
- Shaved Asparagus Salad with a Poached Egg. Top each serving of asparagus salad with a poached or fried egg.
There are two ways to toast nuts for enhanced flavor. I prefer toasting the nuts in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove top; my sister swears by the oven method, placing the nuts in a baking dish in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Whatever method you use, pay attention: nuts go from untoasted to burnt very quickly, so use your nose and eyes to guide you.
Asparagus contains a bounty of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Considering these properties, adding asparagus to a regular diet may aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, and help slow the aging process. This vegetable also contributes greatly to better digestive health because it’s full of fiber and has a high inulin content, a type of carbohydrate that medical practitioners consider a “prebiotic.”
Vegetable scraps are always worth saving. I like to collect any vegetable leftover bits—from carrot slices to stems of broccoli to pieces of trimmed turnips. When I get a good quart-size baggie full, I soften them in a pot of hot vegetable or chicken broth. A quick swirl in the blender creates a delicious and hearty bowl of vegetable soup.