Twice as Tasty

Arugula Salad with Asparagus and Shaved Parmesan

Easy-to-grow arugula and perennial asparagus taste best fresh from the garden

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing

Arugula and asparagus pop up early in my garden, but that’s not where I discovered this delicious pairing. That happened decades ago in the bright aisles of a city grocery store. I picked up a bag labeled “rocket” in a London market because it fit my budget. One bite and I was hooked. For the next several months, I ate rocket, or arugula, salad multiple times a week with a rotating cast of seasonal toppings. By packing the salad and dressing in separate containers, the greens stayed crisp until the office lunch break.

In recent years, baby arugula has become popular enough in America that clamshell packages line store shelves year-round. I still grow my own because it has stronger – and different – flavors. This year, I planted hearty Ice Bred arugula from Triple Divide Seeds, a wild variety called Sylvetta and wasabi arugula for extra spiciness.

Asparagus too tastes best fresh from the garden. As the stalks sit on a store shelf or in the fridge, sugar converts to starch. If you are buying asparagus, look for tightly furled, bright tips and firm, smooth stalk ends that aren’t completely dried out where they were cut. Stalk thickness doesn’t really affect flavor; it just means the asparagus came from a more mature plant.

In London, I would blanch an entire bunch of fresh asparagus for a couple of minutes, until just tender; plunge it immediately into an ice bath; let it dry on a rack; and then refrigerate it to eat cold on this salad over several days. Now I typically grill the asparagus for extra flavor. A lemon-and-garlic dressing brightens the salad, but it’s also delicious with Creamy Balsamic Salad Dressing.

Arugula Salad with Asparagus and Shaved Parmesan

Serves 2-3

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 small clove garlic, smashed

2-1/4 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces arugula (about 4 cups)

1 pound asparagus, steamed or grilled

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved

Toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Lemon zest (optional)

In a small jar, mash together the mustard and garlic with a fork. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Screw on the jar lid and shake briskly until the salt dissolves. Add the oil; reseal and shake again or whisk until the ingredients combine.

If eating immediately, add the asparagus to a large bowl and use your hands to toss it with just enough dressing to coat the spears. Add the greens and toss again, drizzling in a little more dressing if necessary. Divide among plates and top with cheese shaved with a cheese plane or vegetable peeler, plus toasted almonds and lemon zest, if desired.

If packing the salad to eat later, pile the arugula, asparagus and parmesan, plus the nuts and zest if using, in a travel container and leave the dressing in its jar. Reshake the dressing and sprinkle it over the salad when ready to eat.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.