This dish can be served as an appetizer or a side. It captures the fresh essence and delicate flavor of spring asparagus. Surprisingly light, and delicate, when plated it is elegant and visually appealing. When choosing your olive oil for this dish, choose one that is aromatically herbaceous, and less fruity. As the season progressed and the flavor of the asparagus increases, a sauté of shiitake mushrooms in equal parts of butter and olive oil is a nice counterpoint to the carpaccio.
[Chef’s Note: This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to Sonoma, where Executive Chef Jesse Malgren at the Madrona Manor explained how he incorporated the fresh flavors of the Manor’s garden into his menus.]
Serves 4 as a side; 6 as an appetizer
1 bunch asparagus (when using spring vegetables choose spears that are at least 6 inches long, but no more than 10 or 12 inches in length)
1 tablespoon high quality extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or lemon-thyme) leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Prepare an ice bath.
Add the asparagus stalks to the water and allow to cook for about 20 to 30 seconds (for small, thin spears). Do not cook through. You want your spears to retain their crisp and delicate crunch. Remove the spears from the boiling water with a strainer and immediately transfer to an ice bath. Allow the asparagus to cool. Remove from the water and drain on paper towels.
Cut off the bottom, fibrous ends of the asparagus with a sharp knife, and trim the spears to be of uniform size. With a sharp vegetable peeler, carefully peel thin strips of the asparagus beginning at the root end. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the olive oil to the asparagus and gently toss. Season with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Divide asparagus among chilled serving plates, by laying out the thin strips to create a circular pattern. Garnish with equal amounts of lemon zest and fresh thyme. Serve.
Recipe by Donna Marie Zotter