Rich in essential vitamins and minerals and low in calories, asparagus makes an ideal addition to a cleansing spring meal — be it as a side dish, salad, or in a savoury tart. In this simple recipe, we’re highlighting the sunny flavours of its Mediterranean roots: tossed in a light dressing of olive and citrus, and served with thin, lacey Parmigiano crisps and ribbons of salty Montagne ham.
With a distinctively sharp yet delicate flavour reminiscent of olives and the tart bite of lemon, asparagus is a spring table classic. A member of the lily family, asparagus — a name meaning “shoot” or “sprout” in Greek — is thought to date back 2,000 years, originating in the eastern Mediterranean. Used widely throughout ancient Greece, Rome, Syria, and Spain, the vegetable earned a regal reputation for its fine taste and medicinal value. Roman Emperor Augustus is said to have built an “Asparagus Fleet” especially to transport the vegetable. There is even a recipe for asparagus found in the Roman Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria, the world’s oldest surviving cookbook.
Here’s our favourite recipe
Ingredients (4 servings):
20 stalks of asparagus
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 slices of Montagne ham
For the dressing:
0.70 oz crushed black olives (spread)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
For Parmigiano lace:
3.5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
Preparing the asparagus:
Remove the little green leaves from the tips of the asparagus stalks and trim off the tough bottom ends.
Using a peeler, slice five stalks of asparagus lengthways into long thin strips. Place in ice water and set aside in the fridge.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add sea salt and the rest of the asparagus. Let cook for 6 minutes. Transfer cooked asparagus into a bowl of ice water, then drain on a paper towel.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
On a baking sheet, spread out the Parmigiano cheese in a very thin layer.
Bake for about 5 min.
In a bowl, combine the crushed black olives, lemon juice and olive oil.
Drain the fine slices of asparagus and toss them with half of the dressing.
Place the stalks of cooked asparagus on a plate and pour over the remaining dressing. Top with the thinly sliced asparagus ribbons and thinly sliced ham.
Finish with the Parmigiano lace.