Imagine a salad that sings with ingredients that bridge spring to summer: the still yielding young asparagus spears tangle with sweet and mouth-watering charred strawberries, the crunch of pistachios, and tart piquancy of lemon vinaigrette. The charred strawberries are a treat: on their own, they are a flavor bomb that will send you into a yum yum dance, but in this salad they act as a soft contrast to the asparagus’ watery snap and lemon vinaigrette’s bright sharpness.
This salad is best prepared with produce you purchase on the morning or afternoon before serving—the asparagus and strawberries need to be at the peak of ripeness. If you have to prepare the ingredients a few hours ahead of time, that is fine: simply make the vinaigrette, shave the asparagus and place a damp (not soaked) paper towel over the top, char the strawberries and lay them out on a plate (don’t put them on top of each other—once they are grilled, if you aren’t careful with them they will get mushy), and hold these ingredients in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the salad.
3/4 pound young asparagus spears, washed, hard ends removed (should yield 3 cups of shaved asparagus, or 6 ounces per person)
6 medium size strawberries, washed and dried
½ cup roasted pistachios
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (the exact amount depends on how acidic the lemon juice is)
1 tablespoon, lemon zest
salt, to taste
1. Preheat the grill so that it is at medium heat.
2. Prepare the vinaigrette base: place the lemon juice, zest, and a pinch of salt in a glass jar. Let the ingredients mix for about 10 minutes while you prepare the asparagus and strawberries.
3. Grill the strawberries: wash and dry the berries. Rub an oiled rag over the grill grates, and place the strawberries on the grates at an angle. Grill the strawberries for about 7-9 minutes, turning them every few minutes so that they cook evenly on all sides.
4. While the strawberries cook, finish the vinaigrette by adding the olive oil and another pinch of salt. Close the lid. Vigorously shake the jar until the vinaigrette is emulsified. *You may need to add more olive oil or lemon juice, as lemons vary in their acidity. Aim for a clear acidic kick to the vinaigrette.
5. When the strawberries are done, set them aside to cool.
6. Wash the asparagus and snap off the hard ends. Dry the spears, and then one by one shave them on a bias with a Beriner or mandolin into paper-thin slices. If you don’t have Beriner or mandolin, simply use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the spears. Aim for 3 cups of shaved spears.
7. Remove the strawberry stems with a knife, and cut each strawberry into quarters.
8. In a stainless steel bowl, place the asparagus spears, a pinch of salt, and ¾ of the vinaigrette (shake it just before drizzling it in). Toss the spears in the vinaigrette and salt, check for seasoning, and add another drizzle or sprinkle as necessary.
9. Place about 6 ounces of the shaved and dressed asparagus on each plate. Spread the asparagus in level circle over each plate, and evenly distribute about 6 charred strawberry quarters and a few pistachios on salad. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on the strawberry quarters, as necessary and desired, and serve.