Seasonal Eating: the First Asparagus!


Experience the joy of looking forward to the foods you’ve missed like you looked forward to Christmas as a child.

Let out an uninhibited squeal of delight when you spot the first specimen of a first-of-the-season favorite in the market.

Go local and organic, and you have the pleasure of actually swooning over your food several times a year.

That’s the stuff of true happiness.

This week I saw the first asparagus at the farmers’ market. Though there’s been asparagus in the grocery store all year round, it’s not the asparagus I’m talking about. The asparagus I’m a fan of gets picked the morning I buy it by a farmer nearby. Its bright green stalks are firm and snap-happy; its grassy flavor is fresh and intense. The asparagus I’m talking about is good no matter what you do to it – and the less you do the better!

Here’s one of my favorite salad recipes using asparagus.

Tuna “Nicoise” Salad with New Potatoes,
Asparagus and Wasabi Vinaigrette

Serves 4

You’ll Need:

– 2 teaspoons wasabi powder (or more to taste)
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 3 tablespoons lemon juice
– 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 1/4 cup mild oil, such as canola
– sugar to taste (optional)
– 8 cups mixed baby salad greens
– 2 6-oz cans good quality oil-packed tuna
– 5-6 small new potatoes, boiled whole in salted water until tender and then sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
– 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and blanched until crisp but tender (about 5 minutes)*
– 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

Whisk together the wasabi powder, garlic, lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce until blended. While whisking, slowly drizzle the oil into your mixture until it emulsifies. Add about a teaspoon of sugar if the dressing needs balance. Set aside.

Place the greens in a large bowl. Flake the tuna and add it to the bowl. Toss the mixture lightly in the dressing, reserving 2 tablespoons.

Divide the salad evenly among four plates.

Arrange the potato slices, asparagus spears and hard-boiled egg halves around the plates. Drizzle potato and asparagus with the reserved dressing. Serve immediately.

*Plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

Note: Recipe Copyright 2008 by Vanessa Barrington

Image: S Baker

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.