Micro-Diced Asparagus Salad
Ok, let me just say up front, this is my new favorite salad. I think it’s knock your socks, stockings and/or leg warmers off good! It has a unique blend of flavors: fresh, tangy, earthy and an occasional sharp bite (thanks to the red onion). I’ve been all about spring lately – which kinda explains the development process for the recipe in today’s post.
Last Sunday was a gorgeous day (not the manliest word but it’s true) in New York – a bright but cool sun, a slight breeze and me on relaxing on the deck reading my Sunday New York Times. A perfect day. The only thing missing was a nice, light meal to cap it off.
Thinking over my options, I remember seeing an asparagus recipe where the asparagus was diced into tiny cross sections. It was interesting. I filed it away in the ‘You gotta try that one day folder’ that’s in the back of my head. This folder is close to the ‘the next great screenplay that must be written’ folder which is right behind the too often forgotten ‘don’t forget these friends’ birthday’ file. Ok, enough rummaging around in my head – it tickles. Back to the asparagus.
Now that I’ve decided on the star and a cooking technique, I just needed a recipe. I wanted something that would match the day – light and breezy. A recipe started to take shape. I was in the mood for a salad. To keep the asparagus light, I would just blanch and chill it. I decided to jump start the salad with a tangy and sharp rice vinegar vinaigrette that was still light enough not to mask the asparagus. Then I needed to add a few bells and whistles: tarragon for a mild and fresh sweetness (for some odd reason I’m all about tarragon, lately), the fresh bite of red onion and chunks of creamy yellow potatoes to balance the flavors and provide a rest for the palette.
For the protein, I would go with my Juiciest Roasted Chicken recipe (to be posted in a few days). In my head, I thought this would be a perfect yin and yang marriage. The asparagus salad would be cool, fresh, light and tangy. The chicken hot, hearty and slightly spicy.
The real trick was nailing the vinaigrette. While I am pretty happy with the final product, I’m sure I will tweak it overtime. If you try it, go crazy and put your own unique twist on it and make it better.
MICRO-DICED ASPARAGUS SALAD
Don’t toss the vinaigrette with the salad too long before serving. The acid in the vinegar will dull the color of the asparagus. The sharp, bright green of the asparagus is what makes this salad stand out. Also, this is a bold vinaigrette, I would suggest stirring it in incrementally to achieve the flavor balance that works best for you.
One bunch asparagus
½ tsp salt (plus more to blanch the asparagus)
1/3 lb fingerling potatoes (about 5)
½ cup red onion, diced
3 tbl rice vinegar
4 tbl tsp olive oil
½ tsp dried tarragon
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Remove the tough base of the asparagus. Leaving the tips whole, cut the asparagus stalk crosswise into very thin discs (roughly ¼” wide). Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanch asparagus discs and tips for 2-3 minutes. Immediately submerge asparagus in ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the bright color. Once the asparagus is chilled, drain and blot dry with a paper towel. Set aside in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, boil the unpeeled potatoes until cooked through (about 12-15mins). Submerge potatoes in cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes crosswise into discs (roughly 1/2″ wide) and add to the asparagus. Add diced red onion. Toss carefully to avoid breaking the potatoes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
In medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil,1/2 tsp of the salt and tarragon until it emulsifies and becomes ‘creamy.’ Season to taste with ground pepper and additional salt. Toss vinaigrette with salad just before serving.