Louis XIV was so fond of asparagus he demanded (and received, via hotbeds) a year-round supply, but the rest of us must make do with a two-month window, at least for the local variety. The stalks start to emerge once temperatures reach 50 degrees—it is only through constant vigilance that New Jersey–based Lani’s Farm was able to offer some of the first shoots of the season. Sweet and crisp, they are fresh enough to be served raw, as in this salad from Jonathan Waxman’s new cookbook of California-infused Italian classics.
Jonathan Waxman’s Raw Shaved Asparagus With Lemon Dressing
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbs. grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350. Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 8 minutes; (1) cool and then crush in a towel using a rolling pin. (2) Wash and snap the asparagus spears at their base. (3) Upend a small bowl, lay a spear along the flat bottom, and, using a vegetable peeler, shave long, thin slices. Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the hazelnuts and asparagus. Serve on a platter decorated with the Parmesan. Adapted from Italian, My Way, by Jonathan Waxman (Simon & Schuster; $32).