A very versatile veggie

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Asparagus is available pretty much year-round these days, but it's at its peak right now.

This veggie is possibly one of the most versatile around. It can be steamed or roasted as a side dish, tossed with pasta, or used as a topping for pizza.

Below is a recipe for warm asparagus salad that ran recently in the Columbus Dispatch Food section--another great way to use asparagus.

WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD
Makes 4 servings

1 pound fresh asparagus spears

balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)

salt

ground black pepper

8 cups mixed salad greens

1/4 cup snipped, pitted whole dates

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted

Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. Cut asparagus into 2- to 3-inch pieces.

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan. Add water to just below the bottom of the basket. Bring to a boil. Evenly arrange asparagus in the basket. Cover and reduce heat. Steam 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat broiler. Arrange asparagus in broiler-safe baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Broil asparagus 4 inches from heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.

To serve, arrange greens on 4 large salad plates. Sprinkle with dates, goat cheese and pecans. Arrange asparagus on top. Drizzle with some of the remaining balsamic vinaigrette (save remaining vinaigrette for another use).

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With processor running, gradually add oil and process until well combined. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week. Stir just before serving.

Robin Davis is food editor of The Columbus Dispatch. She oversees the Food section, published each Wednesday, which features recipes, question-and-answer columns and reviews of cookbooks, wines, and local eateries.