A springtime starter of green and white asparagus at Chez Casimir in Paris. Look closely: the arugula is like a blanket, keeping the the asparagus’ toes warm against the chill of the April air.
I keep thinking about a dinner I enjoyed at Chez Casimir, a little bistro right around the corner from the Gare du Nord. It’s an unassuming place with tables spilling out onto the sidewalk and chalkboards for menus.
The sights, the smells, the museums, and the parks of Paris were all wonderful. Ultimately, though, I think it was a plate of asparagus at Chez Casimir that was the highlight of my trip there earlier this month. Either that, or this is the part of my experience that I can actually recreate now that I’m back at home.
So if the high pitched accordion sound of the metro doors closing is all but a distant echo and the fragrance of the lilacs in the corinthian columned section of the Parc Monceau seems imagined, I can actually steam a bunch of asparagus, drizzle it with a stream of raspberry vinaigrette and experience a sensory memory of my trip. Shaving curls of parmesan and sprinkling shallots and parsley on the vivid green spears brings back the flavor of dining on a sidewalk with the sun setting behind a chiming church steeple.
This recipe is a little taste of Paris reinterpreted at my New England kitchen table. I couldn’t find white asparagus or spears quite as thick as the ones I savored in Paris but it was still delicious. Bogey would say, “We’ll always have Paris.” But I think I’ll change it to “We’ll always have Paris…and its wonderful asparagus.”
Steamed Asparagus with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Parmesan Curls, Shallots and Parsley
I am not normally of the asparagus peeling school. My mother prepared asparagus for us all the time when I was younger. Her method was simple: rinse the stalks, break off the tough ends, steam and eat – with your fingers! And thats the way I like to do it, too. But for this dish, the peeling step is essential. It makes the presentation more elegant and cutting it easier. Somehow the asparagus tastes even buttery this way. Try it and see.
For the dressing:
1/8 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup sunflower oil
a pinch salt and a dash of pepper to taste
For the Greens:
1 lb Asparagus (green and white varieties if you can get it, the thicker the stalk the better), washed, trimmed and peeled (this makes the asparagus more tender and easier to cut – believe me on this).
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup thick curls of Parmesan or other grating cheese (a hard sheep’s cheese be lovely here, too)
A few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
¼ pound baby arugula (delicate, peppery greens are best here), washed.
In a small bowl or glass jar, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside. Steam the asparagus until bright green and tender, around five minutes. Drain and arrange the warm stalks on a platter. Drizzle the spears with about half of the vinaigrette and then shower them with the cheese, shallots and parsley. In a small bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining dressing and then arrange it at the base of the platter, so that the salad just covers the ends of the asparagus, like a blanket. Serve immediately.