Recently had friends for dinner and served this fresh and bright tasting appetizer. I love the fat stalks of asparagus that are available now. As long as you snap off the tough ends, the remaining stalk is substantial and delicious. This recipe is from Mario Batali’s “Molto Italiano” cookbook.

Asparagus with Citrus, Parsley and Garlic (Asparagi alla Gremolata)

1 1/2 lbs. jumbo asparagus
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons
Zest of 1 large orange
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tbsp. fresh mint cut into chiffonade
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. coarse sea salt

Snap off the fibrous bottom part of each stalk of asparagus (it will break off naturally where it becomes tough, provided that you grasp the very bottom of the woody stalk with your fingertips). Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 3 Tbl. salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stovetop. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove and immediately submerge in the ice bath to cool for 5 minutes, moving the stalks frequently to be sure no hot spots remain; add more ice if it all melts.

Remove the asparagus and drain on a kitchen towel, then transfer to a large bowl. (see my note below) Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest, the garlic, parsley, mint and oil and toss gently to mix well. Arrange the spears on a platter and pour the mixture remaining in the bowl over them. Sprinkle with sea salt, and serve with a flourish.

Note: Make sure the asparagus is dry so that you don’t add extra liquid to the recipe. I tossed the asparagus and dressing in a flat dish so that I wouldn’t break the spears, and I covered it and put it into the fridge for a few hours. I wanted it done before everyone arrived.

plating the aspargus ready to serve asparagusJust realized that I misread the recipe. I forgot to put in the lemon juice, so that explains why there wasn’t a lot of dressing. It was very tasty but I will add that next time. Oh, Mario. How could you let me miss that?

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