Dare we tempt Old Man Winter like this? Baring our sickly white winter legs, exposed to the sun for the first time in months, under a knee-length skirt in early April? Do we actually have the audacity to mow our lawns and plant our gardens, in early April?
And who are we to clean off our grills, emptying out last fall’s ashes and scraping the grates clean, preparing it for actual use in early April? To put away the winter hats and heavy coats and warm boots for the season in early April? To drive with the windows down in early April?
Oh, fellow Northern Hemispherians, I fear we are temping Old Man Winter more than he will be able to bear, and soon, he will dump 2 inches of mushy snow on our grass-green lawns and force us to cover up our freshly painted toenails with warms socks again with one last teeth-clenching wind. I don’t trust that he’s dead quite yet. But…it has been so springlike for so long (I mean, it was 80* on March 17) that I had to buy…and grill…some asparagus for Easter. Buying asparagus, in early April? That may be just the thing to push Old Man Winter over the edge. My apologies. But I couldn’t resist. The siren song of asparagus was loud in my ears, and when I saw Beth Dooley’s recipe for a chive vinaigrette…with lemon….the time had come. After all, the calendar says it’s spring. The weather says it’s spring. I needed some asparagus to confirm it. First of all, grilled asparagus is one of the simplest and best foods on the planet. Tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, it doesn’t get much better than that. But combined with this simple vinaigrette – this recipe screams spring. With early spring chives poking up, combined with some garlic, late-winter lemon, sugar, and oil, this vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to a mouthful of springtime asparagus. I imagine using this dressing on spinach salads, once that starts showing up around here too; everything about this recipe is simple, spring goodness. So go ahead, tempt him…it’s spring.
(P.S. If you haven’t heard about Beth Dooley’s Northern Heartland Kitchen cookbook, from which this recipe came, check out my love poem to it here.)
(recipe adapted from The Northern Heartland Kitchen )
(yields 8-10 servings as a side)
I adapted this recipe only slightly. I increased the lemon juice proportion by 1 tbsp. because I felt the 1/3 c. of oil drowned out the lemon flavor otherwise. I also topped it with a small amount lemon zest before serving, which added a nice splash of color to the dish as well as a zing of lemon here and there.
2 lbs. thick asparagus
extra virgin olive oil (less than 1/4 c.)
For the vinaigrette:
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
Optional Garnishes: extra chopped chives or a small amount of lemon zest to sprinkle over asparagus and vinaigrette for serving.
To prepare the vinaigrette (can be done hours early, and kept sealed in a small jar with lid):
Whisk the lemon juice, chives, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper together. Whisk in the oil as you pour it in a steady, slow stream. If making ahead of time, make sure you shake well before pouring it over the asparagus.
For the asparagus:
Prepare a charcoal grill or heat gas grill to medium. (If your charcoal grill gets hot too quickly, no worries, just be prepared to move your asparagus around a lot!)
Toss the asparagus with enough oil to coat it and sprinkle it with salt. Grill the asparagus for about 5-7 minutes, rolling it around almost constantly, until it is browned in some spots and slightly tender, but still retaining its crispness.
Pour vinaigrette over the cooked asparagus, top with the optional garnishes, and serve immediately.