You can learn a lot sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. That’s where my buddy Chris, from Zuckerman’s Farm, used to sit me down and teach me about all things asparagus. Chris worked hard—awfully hard—as a farmer. He was true salt of the earth, and as generous as they come. Normally, there’s an invisible line: farmers behind their wares and buyers on the other side, but Chris always insisted I “step into his parlor.” Both of us were always so excited when the first asparagus of the season showed up. He’d put aside a bunch for me, and then we’d both hop up on that tailgate and talk—about recipes, how amazingly nutritious asparagus is, and, a lot of the time, about life and family. Chris passed away not long ago, and I felt the best way I could honor him was to create a recipe featuring his favorite veggie. I think he would have enjoyed this, and I hope you will too.
Makes 4 servings
1/3 cup hazelnuts2 bunches asparagus (about 2 pounds), tough ends snapped off and discarded, then peeled (see note)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
4 cups loosely packed arugula
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Put them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes as it preheats, until aromatic and browned.Transfer to a plate or, if you’d like to remove the skins for a more refined texture and appear- ance, wrap them in a towel and give them a good rub. The majority of the skins will come right off. Coarsely chop the hazelnuts.
Put the asparagus on the same baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt. Toss gently to evenly coat the asparagus. Bake for 8 minutes, until just barely tender.
Put the lemon juice, the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl and mix well with a small whisk.
Put the arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Mound the arugula on individual plates or a platter and arrange the asparagus on top. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.
Variation: Substitute toasted pistachios or walnuts for the hazelnuts.
Cook’s Note: Peeling the asparagus gets rid of the stringy, some- times tough outer layer and exposes the sweet flesh underneath. To peel it, use a regular vegetable peeler with a light touch to shave off just the skin. This technique is not necessary with thin asparagus spears.
(Photo Credit: Leo Gong)
Reprinted with permission from The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods. Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.