By Chef Rich Baringer,

Boy, I love asparagus, especially this time of year when you can find fresh, local spears that taste so good.  Asparagus is such a versatile ingredient — you can sauté it, steam it, boil it, broil it, grill it. And from each different preparation, you get different tastes and textures.

One way to prepare asparagus that doesn’t quite get the press that it should: raw!  Crunchy and tender, it’s a great base for a fresh spring salad.

This recipe from Cook’s Country, uses not only your market’s asparagus, but radishes and fresh herbs.  Throw in some homemade croutons and some Pecorino Romano cheese and you’ve got a real winner.  It’s great as a side to some sort of grilled meat or a burger.  So try it — I think you’ll like it as much as I do!

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Asparagus Salad with Radishes, Pecorino Romano & Croutons 

Serves 4-6

You can substitute Parmesan if you don’t have Romano.  Grate the cheese for the pesto with a rasp grater or the small holes of a box grater.  Use a vegetable peeler to shave the cheese in Step 3.

INGREDIENTS

CROUTONS
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts discarded, cut into ½” cubes (about 1 1/3 cups)
Salt and pepper

PESTO
2 cups fresh mint
¼ cup fresh basil
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

SALAD
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed (spears about ½” thick work best)
5 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin
2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved (about ¾ cup)
Salt and pepper

  1. FOR THE CROUTONS: Heat butter and oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add bread cubes and 1/8 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 7-10 min.  Transfer croutons to paper towel-lined plate.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. FOR THE PESTO: Process mint, basil, Pecorino, lemon zest and juice, garlic and ¾ tsp salt in food processor until finely chopped, about 20 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in oil until combined and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. FOR THE SALAD: Cut asparagus tips from stalks into ¾” long pieces.  Slice asparagus stalks 1/8″ thick on the bias into approximate 2″ lengths.  Add asparagus tips and stalks, radishes, and Pecorino to pesto and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to platter and top with croutons.  Serve.

Rich Baringer is chef/owner of Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service. Rich graduated from the Culinary Business Academy in Atlanta, is a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association. He owns Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service and feeds clients all over Bucks County delicious food. Rich grew up in Haycock Township and has lived (and eaten) in Bucks County his whole life. He now lives in Blooming Glen Village with his wife, Mary Beth, his son Jake, and their pup, Teddy.  For more information about Dinner’s Done PCS, contact Rich at 215.804.6438,  dinnersdonepa@comcast.net or check out his website.

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