The passing of Memorial Day always signifies the true start of summer to me. The sound of the 7 a.m. school bus is merely a memory, replaced by the shrieks and giggles of boisterous children running through sprinklers and neighborly chats over dog walks at dusk. I spend a good part of my evenings on my back porch, listening to the sounds of summer, inhaling the scents of barbecues and blossoms, and entertaining family and friends with delicious food, frosty drinks in hand.
This delicious side dish is a perfect accompaniment to a piece of grilled fish or meat. It would serve as a great addition to any festive spread. It works for a potluck or barbecue, as it can be made ahead of time and kept at room temperature until serving. The smoky leeks and asparagus pair beautifully with the acidic contrast of lemon and mustard. The Asiago lends a briny bite, while the pecans add crunch and additional depth of flavor.
Though it can usually be found almost year-round these days, asparagus is one of the first precious produce specimens to alert us to the start of spring. But the local growing season goes well into June, so you’ll find superior stalks, at nominal prices, for a while still. Because thicker, meatier stalks can get a nice char while remaining somewhat crisp, they fare best for this salad. But thin stalks will do just fine if that’s all you can find. As for the leeks, try sourcing slender roots if possible. You want them only briefly cooked, and the larger ones can be tough.
Grilled Asparagus-Leek Salad with Asiago and Pecans
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
⅓ cup pecans
4 baby leeks or 2 large leeks
1–1½ lbs. asparagus stalks, trimmed of woody ends
Salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling vegetables
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 small handful parsley, chopped
⅓ cup grated Asiago cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Preheat grill to high. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and roast in oven until fragrant and toasty, about 7–8 minutes. Set aside. Allow them to cool, then roughly chop.
- Trim dark green leaves from leeks, leaving only white and pale green parts. Trim core, leaving just enough intact so leeks will stay together. Slice in half lengthwise, then run under cold water to wash any grit out. Place on a baking sheet.
- Trim any woody parts from asparagus. Place on baking sheet with leeks. Drizzle veggies with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill leeks and asparagus until charred and tender, but not mushy. Transfer cooked vegetables back to baking sheet and set aside to cool slightly.
- Prepare dressing: whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and mustard. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Cut leeks and asparagus into large bite-sized pieces. Toss gently with dressing. Pour into a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley, pecans, and Asiago.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products