Asparagus salad with preserved lemons
I am getting a little addicted to some of the food TV shows, particularly Master Chef Canada (home cooks) and now Top Chef All Star (professionally trained accomplished chefs). I have no idea how these people can cook like they do, with difficult ingredients and under such time pressure. I couldn’t boil water under these conditions.
Apart from the entertainment value I watch the shows because I learn something and even if it is not recipe driven, like the former instructional shows (Laura Calder’s and Barefoot Contessa for example), I do learn something every time, even if just an approach to cooking and using ingredients.
While I was watching one of these shows recently a guest chef was invited to taste a middle eastern multi course dinner. Her name is Sabrina Ghayour and apparently she is a revered cookbook author in the field of Persian cooking. I looked for her books and came back with a couple, one of which, Sirocco contained this recipe. Buying cookbooks is one thing, finding a place for it at home is a different story. Not enough shelves for all my books, and I have only a fraction of the library I had before in my Trail’s End kitchen.
The recipe calls for preserved lemons. I make them occasionally but they take time to preserve. However, I had a jar of store bought preserved lemons in the fridge and used them. I didn’t have pickled red chilli so I omitted it. I made a couple of other changes: I used lemon juice for fresh acidity and shaved parmesan over the salad. The dressing is made simply with olive oil and lemon juice. This is the time to use that best bottle of olive oil you saved for a special occasion. Same with the sea salt: use that delicate sea salt in your pantry, fleur de sel or maldon. These exquisite flakey salts are hand gathered from the sea beds and this is a good dish to use them in. Raise your hand high above the plate and gently crush the flakes between your fingers as they lightly fall onto the asparagus like snowflakes.
It was delicious so I am sharing it with you. Serve with grilled bread brushed with olive oil.
Adapted from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour.
1 lb asparagus
4 small preserved lemons, chopped (see recipe here)
A pinch of chilli flakes
Fleur de sel or maldon salt
Freshly ground pepper
A couple of lemon wedges, more for serving.
A few mint leaves, rolled and sliced
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt liberally.
Cut or break off the lower part of the asparagus stalks and cut each asparagus in half vertically.
Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes until bright green and slightly softened. You can rinse in ice water to stop the cooking.
Drizzle the warm asparagus with good olive oil just to make them glisten.
Place in a bowl, add the chopped preserved lemon, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
Taste and squeeze a couple of lemon wedges over the salad.
Add most of the mint, reserving some for garnish.
Arrange on individual or one large salad plate.
Garnish with remaining mint and shave parmesan over.
Serve with additional wedges of lemons and grilled bread.