My friend Sheila recently gave me 3 pounds of fresh asparagus, which made me teary because it was such a thoughtful gift and also because I used to dress up and drink fancy drinks in fancy places and now I get giddy over free vegetables. But, unlike high heels and liquor, asparagus rarely leads to regret. I cheerfully threw an apron over my sweatpants and got down to cooking.
Asparagus Week will live on in my family’s lore for years to come. Grilled, steamed, sprinkled in risotto, and blanketed with hollandaise, there was no preparation that escaped our table. By far, our favorite was this five-ingredient shaved asparagus salad. It is simple. It is elegant. It requires neither a hot oven nor hoity-toity ingredients (but you can add them if you have ‘em). It’s such a flexible asparagus recipe that you don’t even need asparagus; on a whim, I made the whole thing with zucchini and found it delightful.
Start with thick, sturdy asparagus stems. They won’t be too tough to chew; you’ll slice them so thinly, any texture concerns will melt away. Hold your asparagus stalk at the woody end and run a vegetable peeler gently down the length of it, creating long, nearly translucent strips. Alternatively, you can hold the peeler steady and pull the asparagus stem against it. In both cases, you will find your shaving rhythm and then, when you least expect it, the pressure of the peeler will cause the woody end and/or tip to unceremoniously snap off. Discard the woody ends as you would anyway. Add the tips to the pile of peeled asparagus and keep shaving. Some strips may be thicker than others. Embrace the variation; it makes this minimalist salad more visually interesting.
Dress your asparagus in a lot of fresh lemon juice, a little olive oil, and pinches of salt and pepper. Let it rest for a few minutes so that the flavors blend, then enjoy the bright, fresh, not-tough, not-mushy yumminess. If you are so inclined, you can layer on bonus ingredients for a more-is-more approach. Shreds of salty Parmesan cheese balance the bright lemon juice. Parmesan is naturally lower in fat and lactose, and you only need an ounce for the entire salad. Fresh herbs, like dill and tarragon, add dimension without fat and calories. (If you happen to make this recipe substituting zucchini, pair the zuc slices with fresh thyme and mint.) And if you are going for full-on Saturday night sophistication, a drizzle of truffle oil elevates the salad to something transcendent. Simply done or simply over the top, this salad is the not-guilty pleasure that we all can enjoy right now.
Shaved Asparagus Salad
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