Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Asparagus Series - Episode One: Asparagus Salad with Soy and Wasabi Dressing

We attended a friend’s wedding this weekend. Guess who caught the bouquet?

Tee hee… I don’t think I’ve ever had this many roses at once (the most I’ve ever gotten was a dozen). I love flowers, just looking at them makes me smile.

Now, back to food… It’s August already. Back-to-school commercials are already starting to air on TV. It used to depress me to no end when I was a schoolkid. Heck, it depressed me when I was an undergrad. And when I was a Masters student. And while I was going through my PhD seminars. When/if I become a professor (that’s the plan, but who knows where life will take me?), those commercials will probably continue to depress me, year after year. But this year, for once, I don’t mind as much: because I’ve been taking classes this summer, and will actually be taking my vacation in the fall. I’m desperately looking forward to it.

But wait, I was supposed to write about food… This is a food blog, after all. So, let’s start again: it’s August already. Which means asparagus season is long gone. Fortunately, I have been saving up a few recipes over the past few months, and I have decided that the next few posts will be resolutely asparagus-centric. After all, it wouldn’t be much fun posting about asparagus in the middle of winter, would it?

I hated asparagus as a child. Hated it with a passion. White asparagus was the worst, with its slimy texture and icky colour, but green asparagus wasn’t much better: it smelled funny and tasted bitter to me.

Whenever I proclaimed my dislike of some type of food, my mother would tell me: “Try it, you’ll learn to like it.” She was right about some things: over the years, I learnt to appreciate coffee, red wine, camembert, broccoli, pesto, tzatziki, and probably a few other things. But I never did get over my dislike of endives and Brussels sprouts (a real crime, for a Belgian girl).

However, I did grow to like asparagus. Admittedly, it was a fairly recent change of heart: two summers ago, Laurent’s father made a cold asparagus salad, with loads of olive oil and parmesan. I tasted it out of politeness, and realized that asparagus could actually be quite tasty, under the right circumstances.

Since then, I’ve evolved enough to appreciate asparagus without overwhelmingly strong flavours. I hadn’t realized how often I’ve been eating them until I browsed through my food pictures the other day, and saw all the asparagus-inclusive dishes. Truly, they have become one of my springtime go-to veggies.

So, the first asparagus recipe I wanted to share with you is this wonderful salad with soy and wasabi dressing. I was very intrigued when I came across it, as these are not flavours I would instinctively associate with asparagus. I wasn’t at all sure how the flavours would combine, but they turned out to complement each other very well indeed! I’m finding it very hard to describe the overall taste of this salad, because there are so many strong ingredients in it. You’ll just have to try it out for yourself – if you can still get your hands on some asparagus!

I tend to not use much oil in my dressings, and to go heavy on the lemon. I’ve toned down the acidity for this recipe, but feel free to play around with the quantities.

Asparagus with Soy and Wasabi Dressing
Slightly modified from Le Cordon Bleu Quick Classics

Serves 2-3

1 bunch fresh green asparagus
1 spring onion
1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

For the dressing:
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
The juice of half-a-lemon
1 tsp mild wasabi paste
4 tbsp soy or canola oil

If using the sesame seeds, toast them in a non-stick frying pan over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the seeds are browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Trim the asparagus and cut the remaining stems into 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces. Separate the tips from the stems.

Cook the stems in boiling salted water for about 2-3 minutes. Add the tips and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until just tender. Drain, run under cold water, and pat dry.

In a bowl, combine the grated ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice and wasabi. Whisk well, then gradually whisk in the oil.

Thinly slice the onion diagonally and incorporate into the dressing. Toss the asparagus with the dressing, arrange them on a plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.


  1. Isn't it funny how our tastes change as we grow older? When I was younger, I hated salad dressing. Now, I think: who could NOT like salad dressing? hehe.

  2. Hello, I cannot find an email to reach you at but I am planning a get together of Montreal Food bloggers on Sept 12th, a chance to meet and share our passion. Please get in touch with me for all the details. We are 9 so far worldethnicfood at hot mail dot com, thanks Evelyne