It’s asparagus season — it must be, the stuff was half price the last time I went grocery shopping. Though asparagus certainly isn’t the first vegetable I think of when I’ve got a salad to make, it’s what we had this week, so it’s what I went with. All I needed was some new, slightly unusual ingredient to pair it with.
On the Internet I found a recipe for appetizers made of asparagus wrapped in nori — the sheets of roasted seaweed used for making sushi. The recipe also called for salmon, I think. It looked good, but I wasn’t sure I had the fine motor skills to make it work. Anyway, I needed a salad, not an appetizer.
After a little thought and a trip to the corner store for a snack-size pack of nori (don’t they sell it at your corner store?), I came up with a salad that’s part Asian, part old standbys of America and Europe.
The asparagus cooking method is modified from Buwei Yang Chao’s How to Cook and Eat in Chinese. If you don’t want to bother with the nori etc., you can just make a cold asparagus dish a la Dr. Chao by tossing it with a little soy sauce (one tablespoon per pound), salad oil (same) and sugar (one teaspoon per pound).
- About 20 spears fresh asparagus
- 2 large mushrooms
- 1 large tomato
- Nori as needed (1 sheet should be plenty)
- Wash the asparagus, especially the heads where sand can get caught. Be careful not to knock off too much of the heads.
- Break or cut off the tough ends. (I like to break them; asparagus spears seem to snap off at the point where they get tender enough to eat.)
- Steam or boil it for two to three minutes, then immediately drain it and run cold water over till it’s cool. Set to dry on paper towels.
- Wash the mushrooms and tomatoes, dry them and slice thinly.
- Arrange them with the asparagus on a platter.
- Cut the nori into thin strips with a sharp knife, then cut the strips into small squares — you’re going for pieces about the size of parsley flakes. Sprinkle over the vegetables.
- This is good with a simple vinaigrette or an Asian-style sesame oil based dressing. I put soy sauce on mine, but my tastes skew a little salty.
- The nori brings out the umami in these simple summer vegetables while leaving their fresh taste intact. Try it in other salads, too.