I heart San Francisco’s New May Wah grocery store! Spanning half a city block, this Asian mega-market boasts an entire aisle dedicated to dried fungi and seaweed alone. The coauthor and I love to make a day of roaming the aisles, boldly throwing mystery foods into our cart (gogi leaves, anchovy crunch, ambiguously-packaged powders), and then trying to figure out what to do with them. The staff isn’t exactly the “How may I help you today?” type, but the lack of guidance only adds to the adventure. (Tangent: if your own Asian supermarket confuses and intimidates you, get yourself a copy of The Asian Grocery Store Demystified, by Linda Bladholm.)
Anyway, I’m not sure why NMW was selling asparagus for $1.39 per pound in the middle of December—and I’m not sure I really want to know. But never one to question a source of cheap asparagus, I gleefully snatched up a couple of bundles. I was going to a dinner party that night, and had to bring an entree that would not require last-minute heating in a crowded kitchen. So I tossed some fresh basil and a bag of cooked shrimp into my shopping basket, and along with a few other basic ingredients I already had at home, whipped up this simple, flavorful, colorful, portable salad.
This simple, flavorful, colorful salad is served cold and easy to transport — making it a perfect dish to bring to a potluck lunch or dinner party.
- 1¼ pounds asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears sliced into 1½-inch lengths
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
- ¼–½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of your lemons
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
- ½ pound cooked shrimp
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Put asparagus slices in a steamer basket placed inside a pot filled with about an inch of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat, lower heat, cover pot, and steam asparagus until just tender (2 to 6 minutes, depending on thickness of the spears).
- Place asparagus in a serving bowl and let cool in the fridge.
- While asparagus is steaming and cooling, combine lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl or a jar with a tightly fitting lid.
- Add olive oil and whisk or shake vigorously until well combined. Taste and add salt, pepper, or sugar if needed.
- Add onion, letting it marinate in the dressing for a few minutes.
- Toss shrimp, basil, pine nuts, and cheese with the asparagus (reserving a little of the cheese to sprinkle on top after dressing).
- Add the marinated onion and lemon vinaigrette to taste (you may have some vinaigrette left over).
- Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.