Luxury at Ground Level

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


I’ve always paid attention to what David Tanis writes because with food, he is very wise.

In his article “A Romantic Cook’s True Spring Love“, Mr. Tanis writes:

As far as asparagus is concerned, you could say I’m a fanatic: a rabid, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.

Maybe it has something to do with all those years in the kitchen of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and other restaurants, sorting the just-picked asparagus into strict categories: The perfect tight-budded spears were to be served whole; the less-than-stellar ones were chopped for a soup or sauté; the woody or sprouty specimens were ruthlessly rejected altogether.

Or maybe it’s just that I love truly fresh asparagus, and happily delay gratification waiting for it. Local asparagus is sweeter, fresher tasting and hands-down guaranteed to be better than what came in last week from elsewhere. Here, we’re just beginning to see it in the greenmarkets, a bit earlier than usual for East Coast asparagus, owing to the warm weather.

He makes a great case for eating local asparagus, but isn’t that always the best course?

Here we are in early spring with more and more produce starting to hit the farmers’ stalls. Now is the time to search out your local purveyors, check out what they have available, and indulge in delicious early crop asparagus if you can.

Mr. Tanis ends his article with more sage advice:

… lightly cooked, drizzled with butter or olive oil and sprinkled with salt is a perfectly good option — perhaps the best.

But, as usual, he also offers a slightly more elegant way to go:

(4 to 6 servings)
Shaved Asparagus With Arugula and Parmesan

1/2 pound large or medium asparagus

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 ounces arugula, washed and dried

Chunk of Parmesan, for shaving

Sliced prosciutto (optional)


Snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Using a mandoline, sharp vegetable peeler or thin-bladed knife, slice the asparagus lengthwise into paper-thin ribbons.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil to make a dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the asparagus ribbons in a shallow salad bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper and coat with half the dressing. Add the arugula, tossing gently to distribute the asparagus. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.

With a vegetable peeler, shave thin curls of Parmesan over the salad. Accompany with a platter of sliced prosciutto, if desired.

(This recipe originally appeared on

I told you he was wise.

Click here to read the article in full.

What’s your favorite recipe for asparagus?

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