I know that asparagus is a relatively popular vegetable. It makes a great, simple side dish with nearly any meat, either roasted or steamed. I like it so much that I want to branch out into doing more asparagus in more forms more often. This easy-to-make salad is always a crowd-pleaser, so when we had about a dozen friends coming over for a Saturday afternoon BBQ, it felt like a good choice. It was a mixed foodie/non-foodie crowd, leaning toward the latter, so this was ‘fancy’ enough without being off-putting to the less adventuresome.
I made a double batch, and one of the things I’d previously learned about making this in multiples is that you don’t necessarily need twice the amount of dressing. The first time I made a double batch, I just blindly dumped all the dressing on, and it turned out a little too sloppy for my tastes. This time, I still made a double batch of the dressing, but then eyeballed it up and stopped when it looked right. I ended up using about three quarters of the total amount of dressing.
1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus
2 medium yellow, orange, or red bell peppers
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into strips
¼ cup of toasted almond slices
½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut and roast asparagus and peppers at 400F 8-12 minutes
Cut onions, grate cheese, toast almonds
Toss and slightly chill
The asparagus we got was a little shorter than normal, so I trimmed it and cut it into halves rather than the thirds we normally cut it in. You simply want manageable pieces for the salad. I generally like to get peppers of two different colors, just for the more colorful presentation. Most often, I like to go with one yellow and one orange—seems brighter.
After dicing the peppers, I tossed them and the asparagus with the olive oil, then slipped the mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet. The roasting time is another thing to play with a little. Thicker spears means it’ll take a little longer. I wanted them to be tender without being too soft. In this case, it took about 12 minutes. While that was roasting, I halved and sliced the onions on our little hand mandolin. I really wanted them sliced thinly, so that the great red onion flavor was there, but not too much pungency in any one bite. I thought about getting out the big mandolin because of the size of the onions, but will cop to the fact that I didn’t want to do the cleanup associated with the big one. I also toasted the sliced almonds on top of the stove in a small skillet—just enough to give them some toasty flavor without getting them too crispy.
The asparagus and peppers came out while I was still slicing onions and grating cheese, so I just put the pans on the counter to let them cool. Once I was finished with those, I made the dressing.
I put all the dressing ingredients except the olive oil into the food processor, turned it on low, then slowly added the oil until it had a creamy texture. I tasted it, found it wanting a touch more salt, so I added a bit. I set aside the dressing until the asparagus and peppers were room temperature. I then tossed the onions, parm, and almonds into it, then slowly added the dressing until the coating was what I wanted. I transferred it all to a smaller bowl, covered with foil, and put it in the fridge for about half an hour. I brought it out when the guests started arriving and it was just at the right temperature at about the half hour point, when we served the rest of the food—cool, but not cold. The dish will stand up to sitting out for a while. Getting to room temperature isn’t a bad thing, although I doubt that I’d want it sitting out in the sun or anything.
With folks starting to arrive, I forgot to get a picture of the finished salad. Next time I make it, I’ll get a photo and retro-insert it here.