Shaved Asparagus with Pecorino
Last week at our farmer’s market, spring was announcing its arrival in full force. I wandered the stalls, expecting to see the same familiar offerings I had for the past few weeks — spinach, kale, a few potatoes — when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but bunches of chives and asparagus spears!
So I’ve been waiting for the arrival of asparagus at this year’s market, because I’ve had in mind a memorable starter B and I ate at Lupa last June, while visiting Manhattan. (Actually, I think I referred to it as “ONE OF THE VERY BEST ASPARAGUS DISHES I HAD EVER EATEN.” What can I say, enthusiasm has always been one of my strong suits!) It was very simple: barely blanched asparagus, shaved or cut thin on the bias and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, grated pecorino romano cheese, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Proof of the fact that often, the best way to serve a beautiful, picked-at-the-peak-of-ripeness vegetable is to do as little to it as possible, and also that a few high quality ingredients, used simply, can really make a stellar dish.
This dish comes together really easily, and I found it quicker and easier to slice the asparagus on an extreme bias with my chef’s knife rather than use my mandoline. If the spears are fresh and crisp, it’s easy to get some nice, thin slices.
I saved the tips for another use, since I’ve found that sometimes they can get a little mushy if they sit for a little while after they’re cooked — and mush was not what I was going for. I also wanted to keep the textures consistent; what I remembered from the restaurant was that it was solely thin shavings of tender-crisp asparagus stalks, no tips included.
I quickly blanched the asparagus slices in salty water just until they turned bright green, then I shocked them in ice water to set the color. After gently patting them dry, I tossed them with good extra-virgin olive oil, plenty of grated pecorino, a squeeze of lemon juice (don’t think this was in the original dish, but I like the way it brightens up the flavors just a touch), sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Simple simple.
The dish makes a fabulous first course, salad, or antipasto for the spring…it’s a great way to take advantage of the bright fresh asparagus showing up in the markets now! I know we’ll be eating it over and over while the asparagus gettin’ is still good.
Shaved Asparagus with Pecorino
Inspired by a dish eaten at Lupa
If you make this dish ahead, wait to add the lemon juice until just before serving — the acid can slightly discolor the asparagus a little.
2 bunches (about 1 pound) of asparagus
2 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the asparagus spears on the extreme bias into very, very thin pieces (reserve the asparagus tips for another use.) Blanch the asparagus pieces in boiling salted water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until they’re just bright green and still tender-crisp (you can start tasting them after 30 seconds.) Drain the asparagus then immediately shock the pieces in a bowl filled with cold ice water. Drain the pieces and gently pat dry.
Toss the blanched asparagus pieces with the pecorino, olive oil, lemon juice (if you’re serving immediately — if you’re serving later, wait to add the lemon juice until just before serving.)
Serves 4 generously.