I always start to get excited around April for all the fresh produce that’s beginning to come in season. The farmers’ markets and produces aisles are now full with basil, asparagus, ramps, and green garlic, and in just a few short months we’ll be buying ripe peaches by the case.
Asparagus in particular is one of my favorite spring vegetables, and I find it to be very versatile, whether it’s tossed with pasta and goat cheese, grilled with some balsamic vinegar, or served raw in a salad. Before making this recipe, I hadn’t yet tried preparing a dish with raw asparagus, but I found that once it’s thinly sliced and tossed with a dressing of brown butter, shallots, white balsamic, it becomes a delicious springtime dish. A handful of roasted hazelnuts echo the nutty undertones in the brown butter and add some crunch to the salad. Try this salad for lunch, maybe alongside some farro or crusty bread, or serve it alongside a grilled entrée for a warm-weather dinner.
Thank you to Arjun Narayen for taking the above pictures! You can find more of his photography on his Facebook page, Arjun Narayen Photography.
Shaved Asparagus Salad with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts
1 lb. asparagus
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- Take one stalk of asparagus and hold it with two hands toward the bottom end. Bend the stalk and allow it to break at the natural breaking point, discarding the bottom 1-2 inches of woody asparagus and reserving the tender top. Place this trimmed piece of asparagus next to the remainder of the bundle and use its length as a guide to trim off the bottom portion of the rest of the stalks. Discard all of the woody ends.
- Cut the asparagus stalks in half crosswise, then using a sharp knife, thinly slice each half asparagus stalk into thin ribbons lengthwise. Place the sliced asparagus in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and once melted, continue to cook until golden brown in color. Add the shallots and 2-3 pinches of sea salt and continue to cook until the shallot has caramelized and the butter is a deep golden brown. Stir in the balsamic until emulsified. Pour the butter mixture over the asparagus and add the hazelnuts. Toss to combine, then adjust salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Note: If you would like to eat the asparagus in a cooked state. Place the salad in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and sauté for 5-6 minutes until the asparagus is warm and golden brown. This preparation is ideal when the asparagus is not particularly in fresh or in season. When it is peak asparagus season, however, the asparagus will be so fresh and green that cooking them is unnecessary.