Full of flavor and color, fresh asparagus, whether it be green, white or purple, is a celebration of spring! I love it when asparagus starts flooding the farmer’s markets, especially when I get my hands on fresh purple asparagus. The fabulous thing about it is that it’s tender enough to be eaten raw. Just use a vegetable peeler to transform it into raw silky strips then toss it together with a few simple ingredients –voila!– a tasty and refreshing side! Fresh, sweet Italian viola (also called purple passion) asparagus is the star of this dish, though raw strips of fresh, crisp and juicy green asparagus work just as well.
Viola asparagus is similar in appearance and flavor to the white and green varieties, though is differentiated by its violet hue, tender, less fibrous texture and fragrant flavor, offering a preferred sweetness – it has a twenty percent higher sugar content than other asparagus varieties and like I said, tastes great raw! And since it turns green when it’s cooked (the heat destroys the purple pigment), thus losing all novelty, why else would you want to enjoy any other way?
When I see all sorts of asparagus start to appear at the farmers market each spring, I really can’t resist buying some (every other day!) and so starts my short stinted asparagus binge. Asparagus plants produce their “spears” for only about six weeks each spring, so the season is indeed short. It runs from late February (late April in Germany!) and peaks through May and June depending upon where you live. By mid-late June, when the season is over, I have definitely had my fill of green, white and purple and look forward to next year when I can enjoy it again.
Shaved Viola Asparagus in a Lemon Vinaigrette
500 g (purple passion) viola asparagus, trimmed
juice of 1 large organic lemon
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons or more, finely chopped fresh chives
fresh grated parmesan, garnish
1. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus spears into long, thin shavings. Transfer to a medium bowl.
2. Combine lemon juice, grainy mustard, olive oil, lemon zest in a small bowl. Whisk together until well blended. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle dressing over shaved asparagus; add the chives and toss to coat. Divide among plates and garnish with parmesan.