Poor Caesar salad. For the remainder of Spring and all of Summer it’s filed away, not once remembered. We think of it only when the weather turns on us – cold rain becomes an everyday thing, sweaters and scarves emerge, and we put away iced coffee and leave home clutching our thermal mug full of the hot stuff.
I, for one, lament this unceremonious Caesar salad dismissal. I miss the emulsion of lemon, garlic, Parmesan, anchovy, and olive oil, and could eat it practically every day. I’ve been known to make this slurry and slather it on a thick piece of country bread. It’s so good, so potent, so unapologetically bold – it’s not some small-time vinaigrette, delicately coating your salad leaves.
No, this stuff is heady, pungent, there’s-no-turning-back gutsy. It doesn’t sit there in the background while your salad greens get all the glory. This dressing takes center stage, right alongside your lettuce, just as prominent, never a back-up player. And just because it’s got such chutzpa, for a salad dressing that is, why not embrace it all year round? Isn’t there room for food that impudently asserts – here am I! Take me as I am.
I decided to do just that when I lugged home several pounds of asparagus from the farmers’ market. Something happens to me this time of year. After a long stretch of brown food, tubers, and piping hot liquids, all I want to do is eat things that are green. I see asparagus and I totally lose it. Especially those thin, delicate, bright green stalks – the young stuff, just out of the ground. Artichokes are my best friends now (more on that next week), thanks to a helpful and informative video Melissa shot a few weeks ago, while I was on kitchen prep duty.
And here’s the kicker – I didn’t care for either the artichokes or the asparagus until last year! I used to wonder why people just would go crazy it when asparagus arrived, and now – I’m one of them. Now I’m one of those loons who buys three pounds of asparagus at once. Who am I? What have I become?
So I was wondering out loud, while peeling carrots, as to what to do with my asparagus. No one else was at home – I was simply talking to myself, just walking myself through the motions of dinnertime and cooking. And looking down upon pretty carroty ribbons it hit me – asparagus Caesar salad!
I’d shave the asparagus and then toss it with my favorite dressing. It’d be spring on my plate, but bolder with more charisma. Instead of sheer lip gloss, my salad was going to be wearing red lipstick. It sounded like a good idea, so I got right to work.
By the time Andrew arrived home, the salad was dressed, and the shaved asparagus was mingling nicely with the dressing. We loved it so much, we ate it, also, the following night, and then I made it again for myself for lunch one afternoon while working from home.
And so three pounds of asparagus – gone like it wasn’t even here in the first place. Caesar salad, or at least my seasonal version of it – is here to stay all year round.
Asparagus Caesar Salad
I know that some of you are going to be turned off this salad because of the anchovies. I implore you – if you haven’t already – do give them a chance. If you, however, absolutely cannot do the anchovy part, simply skip that and just add a bit more salt, to your taste.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
3 anchovies, minced into a paste
1 large garlic clove, minced into a paste
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lemon
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Chili flakes (optional)
1. Holding the tip of your asparagus, use a vegetable peeled (y-shaped is best) to create ribbons of asparagus. Place ribbons in a large salad bowl and combine them with the asparagus tips that will remain behind.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the anchovies, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice to emulsify. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and toss together to combine. Serve with a sprinkling of the flaky sea salt and a few turns of your pepper grinder. Sprinkle a dash of chili flakes, if you like.
Serves 2 to 4.