The best part of Spring is that the precious forage found this time of year is deeply flavorful and expresses all notes of green and earth. After a frigid winter, the gratifying fresh zesty flavors of arugula and asparagus, dressed with velvety toasted pine nuts and a lemon oil vinaigrette only requires a light shaving of Parmigiano Reggiano to bring the whole dish together.
Which brings us to the discussion of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I often call it the table cheese of the gods, purely because it can sit as a solid statue on your kitchen table in a grotto for months on end, and will continue to sparkle its abundant crystalline texture in every which way. The best wheels of Parmigiano I have ever had the pleasure of handling came from the Cravero family in the Emilia-Romania district. Their 2 year and 3 year aged wheels provide such complexity that with each sampling I am inspired to write a petit novella. The layering of fruits, nuts, hay, earth….the cheese paints a portrait of images in the mind. One bite conjures up memories of times past and food experiences near forgotten. Can you tell I’m in love?
In all truthfulness, Parmigiano has been made for centuries, its origin leading back to The Roman Empire. This repetition of ritualistic cheese making is what secures a final flavor profile that is unbeatable.
Ok, onto eating.
- 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cleaned
- 1/2 pound arugula, washed
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mustard (optional, adds zesty flavor)
- 3 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved
Set a medium sized pot on the stove with lightly salted water. Make sure it is big enough to fit the asparagus stems. Bring the pot to a boil. Place asparagus in the water for one minute. Drain water and asparagus into a colander, quickly rinse asparagus with cold water to stop the cooking.
Whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and optional mustard in a bowl with a fork. Slowly add the 1/2 cup olive oil so that the dressing emulsifies a bit and becomes creamy.
Toss the blanched asparagus, arugula, and toasted pine nuts in a bowl with the dressing until well coated. Plate the salad, and then sprinkle the shaves slices of cheese over the top.