Here in Maine, asparagus is one of the most anticipated cultivated vegetables each and every spring. I can always rely on Peacemeal Farm at the Friday market to come through with these lovely green spears, but I know to act fast or they'll be swept up in a matter a minutes. Asparagus will begin to show themselves sometime in May and last a month, if lucky, before fading away for the remainder of the year.
Asparagus lend themselves to a wide range of cooking techniques and pair well with an array of ingredients. In restaurants, you'll often find them grill or roasted, served with eggs, greens, cheeses, or along side meat or fish. Here's I've utilized the vegetable in its original raw state, simply peeling it to create a long, thin strip. Most people have never thought to consume asparagus raw, but done right, its quite a treat.
Alongside the silky strips of asparagus are tiny shrimp, wild harvested in the cold Canadian Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately the shrimp industry here in Maine has taken a big hit, with closing to shrimping has occurred several years in a now. Warming temps are said to be the cause of the depleted stock, and unfortunately its not looking good for the future either.
The olives come from my daily preparation of salt-cured olive, which I create using my annual autumn purchase of raw olives from Chaffin Family Orchards. Each year I buy 1-2 boxes, that ship immediately after being harvested from their organic orchard. They arrive in a flat rate box and only require a quick rinse before being submerged into Maine sea salt or a salty brine and cured to remove the bitter tannins.
All put together, you have a dish that properly respects the spring season, utilizing a few pantry items and offering a unique raw preparation to enjoy for a light lunch or as a starter to an evening meal.
Shaved Asparagus w/ Shrimp & Black Olive Vinaigrette
For the Vinaigrette:
- 4 ounces Maine shrimp, peeled, heads removed
- 6 salt cured olives, pitted, minced
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- pinch of sea salt
For the Salad:
- 1 bunch asparagus (look for thicker spears)
- 2 large sprig of fresh thyme, leaves pulled away from the stalk.
- Combine the lemon, sea salt, and olive oil. Whisk gently then add the chopped olives and shrimp.
- Allow the shrimp to marinated for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the tough lower end of the asparagus by gently bending and allowing it to snap naturally. Compost the ends then use a peeler to thinly shave the asparagus from top to bottom. Continue the same process with all the asparagus then toss in a bowl, separating the layers as you go.
- Toss the vinaigrette with the asparagus, taste and adjust the seasonings. Allow the salad to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.