It would seem logical at first to follow the line of thought that if something is good, more of that thing would be better. This is certainly the case if that something is chocolate. Because chocolate is good, but more chocolate is better. Finding $20 is good, but finding $50 is better. A free parking space is good, but no traffic at all is better. One cherry is good, but a handful of cherries are better. Ice Cream is good, but more ice cream? Better! See, this works on so many levels. There was a time, however, that if you had of told me asparagus is good but more asparagus is better, I would have told you that you were wrong on both accounts. In fact, I would have gone so far as to say that asparagus is bad and more asparagus is horrendous. At least that’s what my young and foolish self would have told you. When I was a youngster asparagus was right up there with mushrooms and olives on the list of things I did not eat. As far as I could tell, the only benefit to asparagus was that it was long and bright green and therefore easy to pick off my plate, (unlike mushrooms and olives which could be hidden in many dishes, only to shock my palate when I took an unsuspecting bite). Eventually though, I came around and realized that asparagus and mushrooms and olives are all wonderful and I now look for ways to incorporate them into my cooking. And what better way to incorporate asparagus than by pairing it with itself. If asparagus is good, asparagus dipped in asparagus is better.
In my cookbook collection there lives a book with the best title I could imagine for a cookbook: Happy in the Kitchen. It’s by Michel Richard and it does an excellent job of proving that if something is good, more of that thing would be better with recipes like Potato Bites in Potato Baskets, Braised Carrots with Carrot-Top Sauce, Romaine on Romaine and yes, even Asparagus on Asparagus. The only change I made to this recipe was to roast some of the spears, cause that’s the way I like them and they look pretty on the plate next to the peeled and steamed spears. If you have not seen this book before, I urge you to check it out, it’s worth its weight in gold for the eye candy alone.
Asparagus on Asparagus, (from Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard)
24 large asparagus (about 2 pounds)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Fine sea salt
Set aside 4 asparagus spears for the vinaigrette. Cut off the tough bottom ends of the asparagus spears and set those aside for the vinaigrette as well. With a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining asparagus spears from about an inch below the tip to the bottom of the spear.
Set a steamer basket in a pot over simmering water. Place the peeled asparagus in the basket, cover, and steam for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the spears are just tender with pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus.
Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water. When the asparagus is cooked, lift the spears with a pair of tongs and submerge them in the ice bath to cool, then remove and roll them in a clean kitchen towel to dry.
For the vinaigrette, cut the reserved 4 asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces. Place in a small saucepan with the trimmed asparagus bottoms and add ¼ cup water and the olive oil. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is completely softened. The water should have evaporated, and the asparagus should be stewing in the oil.
Pour the asparagus into a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the mustard, lemon juice, and a pinch each of sugar and salt.
Serve the asparagus on a platter, with the vinaigrette in a small dish or ramekin on the side for dipping.
Hint: For this presentation, the larger the spears, the better. This is an ‘interactive’ dish- the spears should be picked up and dipped in the vinaigrette.