This combo may sound strange, but I assure you it’s a match made in food heaven! I haven’t always been a fan of asparagus, but decided to get back on the bandwagon for this darling of the food community. Did you know you can eat it raw? For some reason I had never tried asparagus uncooked, but it’s actually quite tender and has a wonderful little crunch! I guess I always thought it would be tough uncooked, like its rough ends.
This summer dish is perfect to bring to an alfresco dinner party and can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature. The combination of texture from the raw asparagus, mix of sweet and tart flavors from the grilled apricots and crunch of the roasted hazelnuts creates a perfectly balanced dish. Oh, and it looks pretty too!
one bunch asparagus
two or three apricots, cut in half and seeds removed
1/4 cup of roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
about one tablespoon balsamic vinegar of modena (the thick kind)
optional: 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
optional: ricotta salata or shaved grana
salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
zest of one lemon, plus juice
4 tablespoons high quality olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Thinly slice the asparagus on the diagonal. Combine the asparagus and dressing (you will have extra) together in a bowl and set aside.
2. Preheat the grill over medium high-heat. Brush the faces of the apricots with olive oil. When the grill is ready, cook the apricots face down for about four minutes.* Then, flip the apricots over and move them to the side of the grill to continue cooking over indirect heat for another four minutes or so.
3. When the apricots are cooked, remove them from the grill and cut them into quarters or leave them as is. Drizzle the apricots with balsamic vinegar; if the apricots are too tart, you can add a small amount of maple syrup to them using the basting brush.**
4. Assemble the asparagus and apricots on a serving platter, top with the roasted hazelnuts, parsley, and optional ricotta salata or shaved grana.
*If you want those clean looking grill marks on the apricots, allow them to cook for the full four minutes without moving them.
**If your apricots are ripe and fresh from the market, you shouldn’t need to add any sweetener. Taste the apricots after grilling and then decide.