Asparagus is one of those vegetables that lets you know the season is changing. Like English peas or radishes, asparagus is a harbinger of spring, and I always get incredibly excited when I see it start to pop up at my local farmers’ market.
Every year as a young cook I would patiently wait for spring to set in and the first deliveries of fresh spring vegetables to grace our kitchens. Year after year I would find myself preparing a grilled asparagus salad as one of the first specials from the new spring menu, and I grew to treasure the pencil-thin, bright green stalks that worked so perfectly on the grill.
This salad is great as a side dish for a larger meal or as an appetizer for a small get-together. You can prepare the salad as one large serving or plate it individually for your guests. Either way this salad should be served warm, and with a fork and knife. While long lines of perfectly grilled asparagus are beautiful on a plate, they are less than convenient to eat gracefully, a knife will help break the pieces up into manageable bites.
To prepare the salad, preheat your grill and oil the asparagus with 1 – 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Season the asparagus with salt/pepper and grill until just cooked. Ideally, the asparagus will be crisp and flavorful, and not wilted. It really only takes 2 – 3 minutes to cook the asparagus fully.
Once the asparagus is cooked, arrange the spears on a plate and season them again with more olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Top the asparagus with parmesan, diced hard-boiled eggs and fresh herbs before serving.
For the grilling portion of this recipe, I like to use a medium-bodied olive oil that will work well with a high heat cooking method. I reserve the lighter, fruitier olive oil for the dressing where it can add to the dish and blend with the fresh lemon, and parmesan cheese.