Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Space Between

Although I hate waiting for spring and summer to arrive, there is a nice overlap between early spring and late winter when I get the chance mix and match seasonal ingredients. While the farmer's market hasn't quite caught up to the calendar, a lot of my local organic markets have, and asparagus, strawberries and artichokes abound. Of course, winter citrus has not completely disappeared, as evidenced by several blood oranges that remained in my fridge as I came bounding home with a tote bag full of fresh asparagus. I've made it every which way, but nothing ever seems to top simply roasting it in the oven with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. I've thought of a dozen other preparations, but nothing ever seems as satisfying or as easy as oven roasting. I never seem to tire of it either, but I'm constantly getting asked for more interesting ways to serve it (tofu is actually what I get asked about most often).

My favorite piece of advice is to let people know that you can always embellish asparagus (or anything, for that matter) after you've roasted it. You could leave the seasoning off and allow it to chill before tossing with dressing, prepare a separate dipping sauce, or cut it up and serve it over a simple pasta dish. It's not a difficult vegetable to pair and goes with almost anything, including aioli, eggs and citrus. Since I had all those oranges wasting away in the fridge I figured why not toss my roasted asparagus with orange segments and a lovely citrus dressing? That way I could make it a warm salad that still had a great deal of bright, refreshing flavor from the oranges, and I'd be able to use the orange juice in the vinaigrette. It was an easy dish to prepare that was done in no time, and really ushered in spring.

First, I tossed the asparagus spears in extra virgin olive oil, then seasoned them with just kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I popped them in the oven to cook for about 15 minutes (mine were nice and fat; thinner spears can be done in 10 minutes or less), just about the time it took to peel and supreme the oranges. The important thing is to keep the remainder of the oranges after you've cut out the segments. You can squeeze plenty of juice out of those little suckers, and believe me, it'll add great flavor and depth to your vinaigrette, which would work on a number of different salads, including just a plain leaf salad (no need to go juicing a whole new orange). The vinaigrette was simple with a nice bit of sweet and sour action, mixing the orange and blood orange juice with honey, Dijon mustard and a little red wine vinegar for some extra tang. It came out a lovely pink hue that paired really well with the green asparagus and brightly colored orange segments. I topped the salad off with some thin curls of parmesan cheese for a bit of delicious salty goodness and called it a day. Here are my final recipes, which can definitely be broken up and used separately.

Warm Asparagus and Citrus Salad

1 bunch fresh asparagus spears, ends trimmed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small block parmesan cheese (optional)

1 blood orange, peeled and segmented (leftovers reserved)
1 orange, peeled and segmented, (leftovers reserved)
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
zest of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place asparagus on a foil lined baking sheet (for easy clean-up), and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp.

2. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, honey, lemon zest and mustard in a bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Plate asparagus and drizzle liberally with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Top with orange and blood orange segments and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette, to taste. Garnish with thin ribbons of parmesan cheese. Enjoy!


1 comment:

The Food Hunter said...

I love asparagus and the citrus vinaigrette sounds perfect with it.