Thursday, March 09, 2006


Another one from Cooking Light. For some reason, it was described in the magazine as “Warm Asparagus Salad,” which...well, Merriam-Webster’s defines “salad” as “a dish of meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, fruits, or vegetables singly or in combination usually served cold with a dressing,” which is generic enough to makes it sound like salad is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I think of salad as cold, and while this may have a vinaigrette, it’s just a side dish, in my view. Whatever it is, however, it happens to be wonderful. Asparagus and garlic and lemon is, to me, the happiest taste combination on earth, and this recipe executes it masterfully.

I made this as a side dish with another new Cooking Light recipe, which was for two-potato latkes, and which didn’t turn out at all as well as I’d hoped (to add insult to injury, it was extremely labor-intensive too). A liked the latkes fine, but I’m not planning to make them again and won’t post the recipe here, as it had a few major flaws. A ended up eating most of the latkes for dinner, while I polished off my own serving of asparagus plus most of his, meaning that I ate nearly a pound of the stuff. That is how good this dish, or salad, or whatever, is.

I can’t wait to make it again. The only thing I’ll do differently is make the breadcrumbs smaller—I took the word “coarsely” in the recipe a little too much to heart, and my food processor was not being cooperative (or maybe, now that I think about it, my bread, which wasn’t day-old, was too soft to break up properly?), and I ended up with pea-sized breadcrumbs that, when sprinkled atop the asparagus, just made it hard to eat. The topping and the asparagus didn’t blend; you’d pick up a spear of asparagus with your fork and all the breadcrumbs would fall off, and you’d have to take a bit of asparagus and then separately scoop up a mouthful of breadcrumbs...which I really have no problem with, but A found it daunting. I also found the cooking method for the asparagus a little strange—why couldn’t I just have steamed it in my steamer basket? A suggested we could roast the asparagus, which might be fun to try also. What the heck, I’ll try everything—I think I could eat this every day. And since asparagus is already available at the farmer's market here in California (where March is actually spring), I think I will.

2 ounces day-old French bread or other firm white bread, sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
1 and 1/2 pounds asparagus

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted. Rub cut sides of garlic over both sides of each bread slice. Place bread in a food processor and pulse 10 times or until bread is coarsely ground into crumbs. Arrange breadcrumbs in a single layer on baking sheet and bake 5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl and set aside.

3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 1-2 minutes or until butter is lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally; remove from heat. Drizzle butter over toasted breadcrumbs and toss well to coat.

4. Combine vinegar, oil, lemon rind and juice, shallot, salt, and pepper in a small bowl or screw-top jar. Stir well with a whisk (if in a bowl) or shake well (if in a jar) to combine.

5. Bring water to a boil in a large skillet. Snap off tough ends of asparagus and add asparagus to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly. Place asparagus on serving platter, drizzle with vinaigrette, and top with breadcrumb mixture.

Serves 2-6

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