It's asparagus time. Years ago I planted asparagus crowns in the Berkeley community garden where I volunteered. There I learned the storage roots and rhizome of the 1-year-old Asparagus officinalis grown from seed are called crowns. I also learned that in the first year of establishment spears should not be harvested but allowed to grow into ferns. This helps the plant produce the carbohydrates necessary for the following year's growth, which can be harvested.
As a child in Italy, I waited impatiently for spring to come around so I could eat asparagus and strawberries. Decades later, I am still thrilled when I see the first green spears neatly bundled standing in orderly formation at grocery stores and farmers markets. I usually yield to the temptation and arrive back home with asparagus to cook the same day. If I need to store it, I do so in the crisper: I wrap their ends in a damp paper towel and place the bunch in an open plastic bag.
My mother boiled asparagus briefly and served them still warm, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. I always roast them and since I am the only asparagus eater in the household, leftovers are the norm. The recipe I am sharing is the result of a happy combination of having not only roasted asparagus in the refrigerator but also leftover roast chicken, and not a lot of time to put dinner on the table for my hungry self.
For years I've followed a simple roast chicken recipe by Thomas Keller. I've always relished it when it comes out of the oven but not so much the day after. Given that we are a household of two, leftover roast chicken is a given, so creative reuse ideas are always welcome. This recipe is a great way of using leftover chicken and of showcasing asparagus, one of the season's most flavorful offerings. The avocado brings the two into harmony, as well. If you are vegetarian, you can substitute the chicken with a plant-based protein.
It's often easy to slide into not taking the time to prepare a nice meal when it is just us but everyone, whether part of a family or a family of one, deserves attention — that includes a nourishing, flavorful meal.
If you don't have leftover asparagus, roast some and let them cool before adding to the other salad ingredients.
1 bunch of asparagus
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus as needed.
Place the asparagus on the mat and toss with enough olive oil to coat, a sprinkling of fine sea salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Spread in one layer.
Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until tender to your liking. Remove from the oven and serve asparagus immediately. Store leftover asparagus in the refrigerator for use in the salad.
Roast Chicken and Asparagus Salad
This recipe serves one — double or triple up for company. Pumpkin seeds provide the crunch here but other seeds or nuts can swap in easily as toppings.
4 ounces roast chicken, preferably pasture-raised
12 medium spears of roasted asparagus
Half of a small, ripe avocado
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, preferably homemade
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon sprouted pumpkin seeds
Remove the chicken from the bone and dice. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
On a serving plate or bowl, dice the avocado and mash it with a fork. Add the mayonnaise and blend it into the avocado.
Add the chicken and mix until combined, then add the asparagus and stir well. Taste and add a bit of sea salt, if needed. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and serve.
Simona Carini also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com.