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White Asparagus Salad with Tree Ripened Olives

White Asparagus Salad with Tree Ripened Olive and Oranges

I look forward to big, fat springtime asparagus every year and I’ve allotted quite a bit of space to the beautiful green spears that deliciously beckon the arrival of warmer days each year. Some of my favorites include the classic Bistro Inspired Asparagus with Mimosa Sauce, and an Asparagus Salad with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Roe. Here in Southern California the prime asparagus season is between April and June. However there’s another shorter (sweeter) asparagus season and it’s beginning right now. I’m talking about white asparagus. The delicious white asparagus featured in this White Asparagus Salad with Oranges and Tree Ripened Olives.

Genetically speaking white asparagus is no different than green asparagus, with one exception. White asparagus never sees the sun so it never develops the chlorophyll that would turn the stalks green. It’s a time-honored agricultural process, and though farmers have a made some concessions for modernity, the cultivation of white asparagus has remained largely the same for many generations.

Farmers plant the stalks in long mounded rows. As the plants grow, the rising spears are piled with dirt. The least amount of sunlight could color the asparagus and ruin the entire crop. It’s a fascinating process, but the most important result the cook needs to know is that white asparagus develops a fibrous skin and therefore should be peeled before cooking.

As I said white asparagus is identical to herbacious green asparagus (minus the chlorophyll). However it tastes quite different because it carries the terroir of the soil its grown in. As with wine grapes the soil actually influences the flavor.

White AsparagusWhite Asparagus Salad DressingSince we seem to be discussing agriculture let’s also talk about the olives in the White Asparagus Salad. I’ve chose ripe green olives. The key word is ripe. Most olives are picked and cured before they’ve ripened. The squeaky black olives that kids like to stick on the ends of their fingers are an exception. But you can also find green olives that were allowed to ripen on the tree before they’re picked. These are very special olives. The best of them come from Graber Olives here in California, but I’ve also seen tree ripened green olives at Trader Joes. GREG

White Asparagus Salad

White Asparagus SaladWhite Asparagus SaladWhite Asparagus SaladWhite Asparagus Salad

White Asparagus with Oranges and Olives 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Adapted from Jose AndresPublished
White Asparagus with Oranges and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot (peeled and minced)
  • ¼ cup Honey Ridge Farms balsamic honey vinegar (you may substitute 1 tablespoon honey combined with 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup canola oil (or other mild flavored oil)
  • 1 pound fresh white asparagus
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 4–6 whole romaine leaves
  • 2 oranges (peeled and cut into “supreme” sections)
  • ½ cup ripe green olives (ripe olives are cured after ripening on the tree, most green olives are not, you may substitute ripe black olives)
  • 2 cup loosely packed alfalfa sprouts or other micro-greens

Directions

Make the dressing: In a medium bowl or mason jar, combine shallot, honey balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, olive and canola oil; season with salt and pepper. Whisk or shake well to blend. Extra dressing may be kept covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Steam the asparagus: Pour or spritz a little water onto 4 paper towels, just enough to barely dampen them. Spread out the paper towels and lay the asparagus on top of the dampened towels. Sprinkle with a pinch or two salt. Roll up the asparagus in the dampened towels, twist or fold the ends closed. Lay the bundle, seam side down, in the microwave. Microwave on high until the asparagus is just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the microwave using tongs and carefully unwrap. Lay the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet or dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle the warm asparagus with about ⅓ cup of the prepared dressing, season with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate, turning the spears occasionally, at least 3 hours and no more than 8 hours.

To assemble: Lay the romaine leaves onto a serving platter. Bundle the marinated asparagus on top. Scatter the oranges and olives across the asparagus and garnish with a big mound of sprouts or micro-greens. Season with additional black pepper and serve immediately with dressing on the side.