Spring Asparagus W/Raspberry Vinaigrette & Walnuts

Its spring!  And spring means asparagus!

My family and I wait all year for asparagus to fill the farmer’s markets and grocery stores.  I know that nowadays we can get it imported from Peru and thus enjoy it year round, but I prefer to eat it in season from as local of sources as I can.  And now is the time, people.  Now is the time!

Of course, its abundance is the reason for this timely post!  Years ago, my good friend used to cater with a dish similar to this.  Served cold, it is the most lovely thing to nibble on while mingling in a crowd.  As a matter of fact, this exact dish (but made with bottled dressing) converted my best friend to an asparagus eater!  I had blanched and chilled a few pounds of it, intending to serve it later for dinner, and she grabbed a spear, dipped it in a raspberry walnut vinaigrette, and it changed her life forever.  I am happy to report that she is now a die hard fan of asparagus, after having previously sworn off ever eating the stuff.  I am telling you.  This recipe has magical powers.

Just think of it as a kind of salad.  Room temp or cold, the flavor of the fresh vegetables with the bright tang of the vinaigrette is a surprise that you wouldn’t think would be so amazing.  Add some toasted walnuts on top, and you have a side dish-or even the base of a light lunch-that is worth celebrating.
One Year Ago: Fruit Dip
Two Years Ago: Breakfast Burritos

Spring Asparagus W/Raspberry Vinaigrette & Walnuts
I highly recommend throwing a fillet or two of grilled salmon on top of this for dinner.

2 lbs fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1/2 c oil-canola, extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, or a combo
6 raspberries-1/4 c raspberries, fresh or frozen
pinch of salt
black pepper
1 T honey
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 c chopped walnuts, toasted *see note*

Cook the asparagus until crisp tender.  You can roast it, which is my preferred method, or blanch the spears in boiling water for a few minutes, shock them in a water bath, and then drain thoroughly.  Be sure not to over cook them!  Either way, arrange the asparagus warm, room temp, or cold, on a large platter.  Meanwhile, place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small food processor or blender.  Use 6 raspberries if you want a very subtle, mild, fruit flavor.  Use a full fourth of a cup if you want a stronger, more pronounced flavor.  Both ways are fantastic.  Blend until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and don’t skimp on the black pepper!  Pour the dressing through a fine mesh sieve, pressing to extract all juice and flavor from any solids.  This step is optional, but I always do it because I really hate seeds in my food.  Drizzle the asparagus lightly with the vinaigrette-you will use about 1/3 of the dressing.  Top with walnuts.  This can be made an hour or two ahead of time.  Just wait to top with walnuts until the end so that they stay nice and crunchy!  Enjoy!

*Note* The reason certain recipes call for toasting nuts before using them is to bring out their flavor.  The heat makes the oils in them rise to the surface, thus leading to much tasty nut!  The difference in taste between toasted and un-toasted nuts is huge.  To toast walnuts, or really any kind of nut, place them in a dry sauté pan over low heat, tossing occasionally.  When you can smell them, they are done!  Alternatively, I like to just throw them in the oven on a dry sheet pan at around 350.  It only takes a few minutes, so watch carefully!  Let them cool a bit before you pop one in your mouth.  They will be crazy hot!