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  • Writer's pictureIlysse Rimalovski

GET RAW WITH ASPARAGUS Words and Photos By Ilysse Rimalovski

Updated: Apr 29

This salad says springtime


The first time I saw asparagus growing, the farmer deftly snapped a stalk and handed it to me, encouraging me to take a bite. It was a transformative moment. To experience its tenderness, sweetness and earthiness was to taste springtime itself.


Imagine the setting as well. It was a misty midday in April in Lambertville, NJ, at an organic farm overlooking the Delaware River. A few other guests and I toured the grounds and were then escorted up a hill to the side of a rustic barn where lunch was waiting.


I wish you were with me. The wooden picnic table was set with fine china painted brightly with toucans. Artisanal lettuces just picked were dressed with walnut vinegar brewed on the premises. The asparagus was there, too, along with freshly baked breads, cheeses, ramp butter, cured sliced meats and an array of berries and wine. Then it started to rain ever so lightly but loudly enough to hear the drops gently pinging on the corrugated metal roof above. We sat and ate in awe of it all.

Recreating that experience has been elusive, as time, place, people and weather were key ingredients along with the food itself. But I keep trying.


If you have never eaten your asparagus raw or think you prefer it stir-fried or baked under a blanket of cheese, I dare you to make this salad recipe and create your own perfect moment.

The key, ideally, is to find some early local asparagus at the peak of its springtimeness, most likely at one of our nearby farmers markets. The Summit Farmers Market begins its season on April 28, Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.


The Maplewood Farmers Market begins June 3 on Mondays from 2 to 7 p.m., and the South Orange Farmers Market begins June 5 on Wednesdays from 2 to 7 p.m.


When choosing a bunch of asparagus, whether the variety is bright green or tinged with purple, look for the following characteristics:


  • Spears are vibrantly colored, firm, uniform and crisp, not wilting or limp

  • Tips are tightly closed and compact, without signs of flowering

  • Stems are smooth and free of shriveling or damage

  • The aroma should be clean, fresh and earthy



To maximize the enjoyment and presentation of eating raw asparagus, cutting it on the bias, also known as slicing diagonally, serves many purposes. Transforming spears into uniform, elongated slices increases surface area, allowing flavors from marinades and dressings to be better absorbed, elevating the flavor profile of the recipe overall. The texture becomes more pleasing as well. Each bite remains slightly crunchy without being tough. Removing the fibrous portion of the woody end, in addition to peeling away any tough outer layers, ensures that every inch of the spear is not just edible but perfect.


As we cook together, you will find suggestions to personalize each recipe to your own tastes and whims. You may change up your asparagus salad with fresh peas, your favorite cheese, nuts or whichever vinegar happens to be in your cabinet. And if you’re incomplete without meat, I’ve made provisions for you, too.


Springtime Raw Asparagus Salad

Serves 4


Ingredients:

1 bunch farm-fresh asparagus, sliced thinly on the bias

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

All the ingredients are gathered and prepped before being tossed together for a delicious salad.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar (such as sherry, rice or white wine)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkling of toasted pignoli nuts, crushed hazelnuts or raw pistachio halves

Shaved or crumbled cheese of choice (parmesan, pecorino, feta, goat or gorgonzola)


Peeling away any tough layers ensures that every bite is pleasingly tender and crunchy.


Variations:

Add a bunch of fresh green peas, thinly sliced sugar snap pea pods, or snow peas

Add a handful of raw enoki mushrooms

Garnish with cooked, crumbled crispy pancetta, bacon, or prosciutto


Instructions:

  1. With a sharp knife, trim off the woody asparagus ends (usually one to two inches). Using a vegetable peeler, remove any tough outer skin that remains. Starting from the bottom of the stalk, slice the tender spears on the bias (at an angle) to create ¼-inch pieces, leaving the asparagus tips whole.

  2. In a bowl, toss the asparagus slices with the mint, nuts (and if you choose, the peas and/or mushrooms.)

  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey. Salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and mix gently but thoroughly. Add cheese on top (and crumbled meat if you choose).




The salad is garnished with toasted pignolis and shavings of parmesan.

Ilysse Rimalovski is a well-seasoned home chef, host and content developer living in Maplewood. Among her many creative pursuits, she loves to teach how to cook with freedom, flair and confidence. Have food questions or need inspiration? Visit Ilysse’s free Food Matters Zoom Room on Fridays from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Email forilysse@icloud.com for further details.


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