By the time asparagus and spring leeks appear, I am craving the freshness and bright excitement of the season’s first produce. This recipe is endlessly adaptable—substitute the asparagus and fennel with charred spring leeks or with radicchio, green beans or eggplant in the summer. Romesco is a fabulous sauce to have in your culinary repertoire and is a nutritional powerhouse packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. This recipe yields more romesco than you’ll need for the salad so play around with it throughout the week—I like it on lamb, salmon and farro—or freeze it in large silicone ice cube trays for another day.
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- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup sliced almonds (or hazelnuts)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 3 roasted red peppers
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons croutons/cubed bread
- Salt to taste
- 1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed
- 1 small bulb fennel
- 1-2 large slices sourdough, torn into croutons
- 1 handful whole parsley leaves
- ¼ cup parmesan slivers
- A drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
1. PREHEAT OVEN to 400
2. PREP VEGGIES: Cut asparagus in ½. Quarter and thinly shave fennel on a mandoline—if it's not thin it won’t be sweet and tender (substitute a couple of handfuls watercress or arugula if you don’t have a mandoline). Remove stems from parsley.
3. START SAUCE: Place olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. When it begins to color, use a slotted spoon to remove garlic to a bowl. Repeat with almonds. Cool slightly.
4. MAKE CROUTONS: On a sheet pan, drizzle bread with oil, add salt. Bake 10 mins until golden.
5. COOK ASPARAGUS: Add 1 tablespoon water, a drizzle oil and asparagus to a large frying pan on high heat. Cover, steaming 2-3 mins, or more if asparagus is thick. When they’re starting to get tender remove cover, evaporate juices. Season, then spread out on a sheet pan to cool. *When the asparagus is close, have a taste: it should be tender but still have integrity
6. MAKE SAUCE: Puree all ingredients except oil in a blender, adding oil slowly while blending.
7. ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: Lay half the asparagus, fennel, parsley and parmesan in a shallow platter. Drizzle romesco, top with rest of veggies, croutons, salt and pepper. Serves 4 as a side.