ROTW: Almost Spring Pasta Salad
The daffodils are blooming, the days are getting longer, and every now and then the rain stops long enough to let some sunshine peak through the ready-to-flower tree branches. Spring is knocking on Portland’s door, and I, for one, am ready to answer! With asparagus on sale this week at ACG, I could think of no better way to celebrate the rapidly approaching change of season than to feature it in a Recipe of the Week.
The most common way to serve asparagus is as a gently cooked side. And for good reason! Whether steamed, blanched, grilled, or roasted, the spears hold their own on a plate, rarely being left behind to be scraped into the bin post-meal. Something about the vegetable just makes a meal seam more special, fancy even, in a way a humble pile of broccoli can’t do. My favorite way to eat asparagus, though, is raw. The thinly shaved ribbons bring forth the flavor of early spring with each snappy bite. Delicious on its own as a simple side or as a pizza topping (I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for a year now!), it is a totally different way to experience this tasty vegetable!
Admittedly, this preparation takes a bit longer than simply cutting off the bottoms of the stems. The shaving is easiest with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, which I currently don’t have/ can’t find in my kitchen, so I used a combination of my regular peeler and a knife. BE CAREFUL IF YOU ARE USING THE KNIFE. I cannot overstate that. I have tried to do this with a mandolin slicer, but unfortunately it is useless for this task. It is so worth the effort, though! And to prevent anyone from spending too much time prepping this meal, I kept the rest of the recipe super simple. It’s a matter of boiling pasta and tossing it together with a handful of other ingredients. Since the salad is eaten cold, everything can even be done ahead of time.
For the pasta, I used Sorghum Penne. ACG recently started carrying it in the Bulk department, and I’ve been super excited to try it out. I have nothing against wheat and adore my gluten, but also like to switch things up as much as possible. I love variety, and consider myself to be a “Whole Grain Enthusiast,” so the idea of sorghum pasta had me ridiculously excited. It did not disappoint! It held up beautifully to cooking, and had the tooth of a whole wheat penne. If you are looking for an “alternative” pasta, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
For the dressing, I wanted to compliment and brighten rather than compete with the delicate flavor of the asparagus. A couple months ago I put up a few jars of Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons, with were perfect for the task. I minced up a couple tablespoons and combined it with a bit of oil, thyme, salt and pepper, which resulted in exactly what I was hoping to achieve. If you don’t have preserved lemons, you could use the juice of a whole lemon and a bit of the zest for a nice alternative finish.
I had already photographed and dished up the salad when the idea of peas struck me. They add a splash more Spring flavor and were totally worth the resulting pause before eating! I made this a meal by topping each portion with some Quorn fake chicken. I think it would be great with a number of protein accompaniments, from the obvious chopped boiled egg to some delicate pancetta, or even some flaked tuna or pine nuts. Do what you will to make it your own, but with asparagus at just $5.99/lb, just make sure to make it!