Shaved Asparagus with Mushrooms and Parmesan Crumble

by Hilary Gauntt on March 5, 2015

L.A. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons has two favorite foods his family builds celebrations around – Dungeness crab which starts the rainy season, and asparagus which ends it. (Not that we’re having a rainy season this year in California, unfortunately.)  This is one of his latest creations for asparagus; not to cook it at all but to shave the spears into thin strips and eat it raw tossed with mushrooms and walnuts in a lemony vinaigrette; topped with those crunchy bits of melted Parmesan called frico.  I found the raw asparagus to be surprisingly sweet and delicious in this unique salad. Shaving the spears is easy and actually kind of fun; just use a firm pressure and make sure the spears are not those skinny pencil sized ones. I have made frico before for my anti pasta platters and it’s always a hit.

2 ounces Parmesan, grated

Generous 1/3 cup walnut halves

1 pound medium asparagus

1/4 pound white mushrooms

1 Tbs. minced chives

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. lemon juice

Salt

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silicon sheet or parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Spoon the grated Parmesan into 1 Tbs. mounds on the sheet and press lightly to flatten. Bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool.

When the Parmesan crisps are done, place the walnuts on the baking sheet, and bake until toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Remove and cool.

Shave the asparagus:  Lay a stalk flat on the cutting board, holding it at the base.  Starting at about where the pale base turns green, use a vegetable peeler to shave the stalk in long, even strips all the way through the tip.  When you’ve gotten about halfway through the stalk, turn it over and start on the other side.  When you reach the point that the peeler will no longer shave the spear, rest the spear on top of the flat handle of a wooden spoon to eleate it and take the last 2 or three strips. You can either discard what remains or save it to make an asparagus soup.

Trim the bottoms of the stems from the mushrooms so that they’ll sit flat on the work surface.  Using a very sharp knife, slice the mushrooms as thin as you can.Combine the asparagus shavings, mushrooms and walnuts in a large bowl and toss gently.

Place the minced chives in the bottom of a small bowl and cover with the olive oil.  Add the lemon juice and one-half teaspoon salt, and whisk until smooth.  Pour all but a teaspoon or so of this dressing over the asparagus mixture and toss gently with your hands to lightly coat.  Add the rest of the vinaigrette, a little at a time, as necessary.  Season with salt to taste.

Arrange the salad on a platter, and crack the Parmesan crisps over the top in large pieces. Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Note: You could prep all the ingredients ahead of time and toss together right before serving.  I borrowed Russ’s great photo of his dish because I was throwing this together while we  were watching the Academy Awards and forgot to take a picture!

big asparagus

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