Recipe: How to make a tasty asparagus side dish
As the weather starts to warm up, we can look forward to a fresh approach to food. Barbecues and outdoor dining will stage a comeback and hearty winter braises will make way for meals that are brighter, lighter and loaded with fresh green shoots and leaves.
For Chef Richard, no single ingredient heralds the arrival of spring better than crunchy spears of asparagus. Distinctive, delicious, extremely quick and easy to prepare, asparagus is the ideal seasonal treat to help shake off the winter blues.
Besides the great taste, asparagus offers plenty of health benefits. Renowned since ancient civilisation for its aphrodisiac qualities, asparagus is also packed with vitamins C and K, and rich in fibre and antioxidants.
Asparagus suits almost any cooking method. Served raw as a crudite or shaved into a salad, steamed, blanched, grilled, fried in a tempura batter, pickled and even a 15 minute braise are all great ways to prepare this versatile veggie. Richard’s preference is either for a quick dunk in salted boiling water or, for the perfect bbq bite, toss with olive oil and salt and turn on the grill until nicely marked before finishing with a squeeze of lemon.
Asparagus with Pangrattato and Salsa Dragoncello
This might sound like a mouthful, and a tasty one at that, but this is really just two simple accompaniments using household staples that work wonders with those sweet green stems.
- Pangrattato, sometimes called “poor man’s parmesan” is simply flavoured toasted breadcrumbs and makes a terrific topping for pasta dishes or stews.
- Salsa Dragoncello is a fresh and vibrant herb sauce that goes beautifully with many things but especially rich meats like lamb or pork.
This dish makes a lovely side to accompany dinner, or you could add a poached egg or a beautiful piece of cheese (such as the Second Mouse seasonal release Fleur d’Orange) and you’d have a terrific main meal.
- 2 cups x breadcrumbs (Panko are great, but so is blending up day-old bread)
- 3 Tb x olive oil
- 1 x garlic clove, minced
- ⅓ cup x fresh oregano (parsley, rosemary, marjoram or thyme all work well too)
- 1 Tb x chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 pinch x salt
Toss all the ingredients except the garlic and chilli together in a pan and cook over a medium heat while stirring regularly.
Once the crumbs are golden brown and crispy add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute or so before removing from the heat.
- 1 cup x day-old bread, crusts removed
- ⅓ cup x red wine vinegar
- 1 x garlic clove
- 1 cup x fresh tarragon
- 1 cup x fresh parsley
- 1 cup x olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the bread with vinegar for 20 minutes.
Pulse all the ingredients together until a loose sauce is formed and season to taste, adding a little more vinegar if you like it sharper.
Bring a pot of well salted water to the boil.
Trim away the woody ends of the stems and if necessary, peel away any skin from those ends that is too fibrous and bark-like.
Drop the asparagus into the water and cook quickly until it just begins to soften a little, 30 secs to two mins, depending on thickness.
Drain and arrange the cooked asparagus on a plate and sprinkle liberally with pangrattato and dot the salsa on and around it.
Enjoy with a glass of cool climate white wine.
Recipe and words by Chef Richard Learmonth.