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Peel the asparagus and trim off the tough ends. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl. In a skillet, bring some well salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and simmer until just tender (because the asparagus are peeled, this should take 2 - 3 minutes, do not overcook); immediately remove the asparagus to the ice bath, allow to cool completely, then set on paper towels to drain and dry. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients, mix well. Place the asparagus in a serving dish, toss with the dressing and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Toss again, adjust seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.
While asparagus are available year round, the best come in spring and early summer. Regardless of when you buy them, here are some tips I’ve learned; when it comes to picking the best asparagus, size doesn’t matter at all. Thinner asparagus comes from new asparagus plantings, the thicker ones come from older crowns. Both are tender, but I prefer the fat ones. They just have more “meat” on them.
“When it comes to picking the best asparagus, size doesn’t matter”
Asparagus are high in vitamins B6 and C, plus fiber, folate and glutathione, an anti-carcinogen and antioxidant, making them an excellent nutritional choice.
Buy asparagus that are fresh, with tightly closed heads. If you notice the heads are starting to open, or the stalks seem to be less than “plump” pass for another bunch…those are sure signs the asparagus have been sitting for a while.
Asparagus is best cooked the day you buy them but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To store, wrap them in a damp (not wet) paper towel and place in a plastic zip top bag, or you can set them upright in a jar with 1 inch of water in the bottom and cover the whole thing with a plastic bag.
When it comes to prepping asparagus, be sure to wash them as there may be dirt in the heads. You need to remove the bottom of each stalk as that is very fibrous; usually the bottom third, but an easy way to do it is to hold the stalk below the head about midway to the bottom and at the bottom and bend it gently, it will break where the fiber meets the tender. While not necessary, if you want your stalks to look “neat” take a paring knife and trim the end once you have broken it. When cooking thick asparagus, I like to use a vegetable peeler to take the scales off. It looks so neat and tidy; but this is an optional step so if you don’t feel like it, then don’t do it. It will just take a little longer to cook them to crisp-tender.
The dressing is made from a pretty good amount of Dijon mustard, that is combined with balsamic glace and extra virgin olive oil, with the shallot, garlic, and herbs mixed in. It is rather thick, making it a kind of almost dipping sauce, which is perfect for clinging to the asparagus spears. The thick dressing makes this recipe a perfect “finger food” and we all know that it is perfectly ok to eat asparagus with your fingers. Even Ms. Manners says so.
So whether you eat them with your fingers, or use a knife and fork, this recipe for Asparagus Salad with Balsamic Dressing is a wonderful way to enjoy the asparagus experience!
Or try my recipe for Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad, a bright refreshing raw salad.
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