Chilled Asparagus Salad
I like to use a kitchen scissor to cut only the very bottom from the stalk; breaking it off causes more of the bottom to go to waste, which is otherwise perfectly edible. With the smaller, thinner "pencil" asparagus, the stalks are too thin to peel and you need that protective layer so the asparagus keep their shape during cooking. For larger asparagus, where the skin is tougher, I do peel the stalk but leave the tip and an inch or so below the tip, unpeeled. The top is tender enough that it can be cooked as is.
I like asparagus al dente, slightly crunchy. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add salt until it tastes like mild seawater. How will you know? Take a little water with a spoon and taste it, then add the sugar.
Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl, large enough to hold the asparagus, with cold water. Add some ice cubes. Plunge the asparagus into the ice bath before cooking. This will help to bring any limp stalks back to life. Remove from the ice bath, plunge them into the boiling water and allow them to cook, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water, transferring them immediately to the same ice bath. Allow them to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, swirling them gently in the water to assure they are all cooling quickly in the cold water.
The most important step for this dish? Drying the stalks once they are removed from the ice bath. Taking care that no water gets into the final salad is the best way to assure that the maximum flavor will be enjoyed! Transfer the asparagus to a large plate or platter lined with a kitchen towel and refrigerate.
In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, honey and mustard. Stir to blend. Whisk in the olive oil in an even, steady stream. When all of the oil has been integrated, taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
Recipe courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli