Once you buy local asparagus, two things happen. You can't go back to the grocery store variety. And greed sets in. You need to have it every day, until it's gone again. Most times I'm happy to have asparagus plain, or nearly. I tend to sprinkle it with aromatics or textures, like this recipe with pancetta and breadcrumbs. This year, the young garlic has been plentiful at the market, and while I admit the following makes me sound like a food jerk, I had extra young garlic in the fridge. It's true, I did. Don't hate on me people. This is my job!
Because I'm too lazy to saute the garlic to ease its aroma, and because I love mellowing onions and shallots by rubbing them with salt and letting them sit, that's what I did with the young garlic. I pulled away the tough outer layers (save them for infusing the stock you're making with that pastured chicken -- See? I can't help myself.) and thinly sliced then entire bulb and even a few inches of the stem. After rubbing them with kosher salt, I let them sit for a few minutes while I cooked the asparagus.
Blanch your asparagus (unless you know it's not gritty, in which case, saute it in oil for 2 minutes and proceed with the rest of the recipe as is) to release all the grit. Then it's just a bunch of slicing and sprinkling and grating your way to seasonal self-satisfaction. —Amanda Hesser
1 head young garlic (with a few inches of stem), or 2 garlic scapes
asparagus, trimmed and washed
2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish root
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a lemon
In This Recipe
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. While it heats, trim the root end of the garlic; if it has a stem, cut it 4 inches from the bulb, then slice the bulb and stem in half lengthwise. Remove any tough outer skin. Lay each half cut-side-down and slice as thinly as possible (if using garlic scapes, also slice as thinly as possible). Gather up the garlic in a bowl, season with coarse salt and work the salt into the sliced garlic using your fingers. Your fingers will smell of garlic -- yes! -- and it's a nice spring-like aroma. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.
When the water boils, add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry the asparagus spears, then cut thinly (1/4-inch) on the bias. Arrange the asparagus on a platter (or individual plates). Sprinkle the garlic over the asparagus. Drizzle some oil over the asparagus -- it's ok if it pools a little, especially if it's good oil. Using a vegetable peeler, scrape away about 1 inch of the horseradish skin from the end of the root; give it a rinse. Grate the white root over the asparagus -- about 2 teaspoons of horseradish. Season with more salt, if needed, and serve with lemon wedges.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.