16 June 2008

Asparagus with Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette


Over the weekend I used asparagus in another new recipe. I cut this recipe from my local newspaper a few weeks ago. It turns out that it originated in The Washington Post. The article featured Peter Smith in a Chef’s Challenge to create a “family friendly weeknight menu for four costing as little money as possible.”

Great concept! Who couldn’t use a little advice on creating a delicious family meal on a limited budget? What’s more his menu includes a Potato Rosti, a delicious comfort food I had never heard of until my son spent a year in Switzerland and came home making them for a casual dinner or snack.

Even more appealing to me was Peter Smith's recipe for Asparagus with Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette. I love the flavor of ginger! I almost always have a bag of crystallized ginger slices from the Asian market in my cupboard. Crystallized ginger keeps well and is a wonderful after dinner treat when dipped in dark chocolate or even just straight from the bag. When I saw that this recipe used crystallized ginger in a cooked vinaigrette I was intrigued and decided to try it. It sounded like a delicious and practical way to impart ginger's sweet and spicy goodness to a vegetable recipe.

Despite it's billing as part of a "family friendly weeknight menu" this recipe isn’t as simple as the Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar recipe in my last post. In fact it calls for taking a few more steps and making a few more dirty dishes than I would probably be willing to do for a weeknight meal. While the onions were pretty and they added a nice flavor to the oil for the dressing, and while I did love the contrast in color, taste and texture between the crispy browned onions and the spicy sweet ginger dressing, in my life this recipe, as written, is best saved for special occasions.

Still I think I can adapt this recipe to better fit my weeknight style of cooking. On an average weeknight I would skip the onions, sacrificing some of the rich contrast, while still savoring the pairing of asparagus and crystallized ginger. I would make the dressing using plain canola oil and perhaps try a touch of garlic or a few drops of sesame oil to compensate for the lack of onion infused flavor. Also, instead of plunging the asparagus into a large bowl of ice water, I would just rinse it well in cold water and pat it dry. I think those few changes would simplify the process and would significantly cut down on clean up time while still creating an interesting and delicious side dish to accompany a weeknight meal.

Asparagus with Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette

¾ cup canola oil, or enough to fill a pan at least ½ inch full
¼ medium yellow onion, cut into thin strips
1 pound asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 ½ Tablespoons crystallized ginger, cut into thin strips
¼ cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Crispy Onions

Pour enough oil into a medium saucepan to cover the bottom to a level of ½ inch. Add the onion.

Cook over high heat, stirring after the onion has begun to brown, until the onions are golden, approximately 6 or 7 minutes.

Strain the onions, reserving the oil. (Reserved oil, beyond the 2 Tablespoons needed for this recipe, is a great addition to other recipes like Peter Smith's Pan Stew of Bottom Round Steak With Rosti Potato.)

Place the onions on paper towels to cool.

Asparagus

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

On your stove top, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, or until just tender.

Immediately drain the asparagus spears and transfer them to the bowl filled with ice water. When they are cool, drain and wrap the asparagus in a clean kitchen towel. Place the asparagus in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette

Combine the crystallized ginger and vinegar in a small skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat until the vinegar is reduced by half, approximately 2 – 3 minutes.

Transfer to a small bowl and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes.

Whisk in 2 Tablespoons of the reserved oil from the onions.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, arrange the asparagus spears on individual plates. Drizzle the Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette across the spears and sprinkle the Crispy Onions across the top. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4

7 comments:

Kimi Harris said...

Your picture looks wonderful (and sooo yummy)

Alanna @ A Veggie Venture said...

What a production! I tried using ginger juice on asparagus three years ago and remember being disappointed. I like this idea way better --

Christi Krug said...

I'm a ginger maniac too--can't wait to try this! Thanks!

Paula said...

Oooh, I've not seen a recipe like this before. Love asparagus! The crispy onions sound delish all by themselves!

Kristen said...

Ohhhh I am loving these different asparagus recipes. Mmmmm!

nicisme said...

What an amazing combination! I'm really into ginger at the moment too.

Lisa said...

Kimi - Thanks!

Alanna - Crystallized ginger seems to impart the best of ginger to this recipe.

Christi - Good to know! Please tell me how it turns out for you.

Paula and Kristen - The asparagus is gorgeous this year. Thanks for stopping by!

Nicisme - I have some more ginger recipes coming soon...