I have fond memories of wild asparagus growing up on my Grandparents ranch in Colorado. The ranch was at the base of Mt. Princeton, one of the Collegiate Peaks and also one of Colorado’s 53 “fourteeners” (mountains more than 14,000 feet high). The ranch was at about 8000 feet and winters were pretty harsh at that altitude.  Seeing wild asparagus pop up, usually in early to mid April, was a sure sign that the weather was finally going to warm up and summer was on the horizon.

My Grandmother and I would pick the wild asparagus and eat much of it raw, right on the spot.  If you’ve never had just picked asparagus, it has any amazing sweet/green flavor, something that you don’t get with cultivated asparagus.  Raw is still one my favorite ways of eating asparagus but it must be just picked to take advantage of its natural sweetness.  Of course there are all kinds of ways to prepare asparagus beyond just steaming the spears whole. We’d have it every day until its short season was over.  The following recipe, and all of the recipes in this series have their genesis in dishes my Grandmother created with asparagus, so this is really an homage to her!

Serves 6 – 8 as a side salad
You could use this same approach with artichokes or Brussels sprouts.  Once dressed, the shaved asparagus shouldn’t marinate for more than 15 minutes or so because it loses it crisp texture.  If your asparagus has a tough skin then you’ll want to peel it completely before shaving.  If not then follow instructions below and just shave off and discard 2 sides of it.

3/4 pound fresh asparagus (preferably larger rather than smaller), woody ends discarded                                                                                                                                 Honey lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3 cups young arugula and/or upland cress (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup peeled, toasted and chopped hazelnuts
2 – 3 ounces thinly shaved pecorino (use a vegetable peeler)

Cut off tips of asparagus and set aside in a large bowl.  Lay asparagus flat on cutting board and shave one side of it with a vegetable peeler and discard this first shaving.  Turn to other side and repeat.  Now shave remaining thinly and place in the bowl.  Dress generously with some of the vinaigrette and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes for flavors to marry and asparagus to soften just a little.
Add arugula and hazelnuts along with a little more dressing and toss with asparagus.  Arrange attractively on plates and top with the shaved pecorino.  Serve immediately.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 1 generous cup
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fragrant honey
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.  Store covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.