Asparagus season has arrived. In Ireland, this gorgeous vegetable is in season from the last week of April through to the end of June.
Imported asparagus is generally available in the shops now year-round, but nothing beats locally grown, both for flavour and freshness, but also from an environmental and sustainability perspective.
It really is an incredibly easy vegetable to cook with. It is wonderful steamed and served with a little olive oil, black pepper and Parmesan. It makes a luscious brunch served with some Parma ham and poached eggs on toast, again with a little grated Parmesan cheese on top.
If you want to be especially indulgent, smother the asparagus and eggs in some homemade hollandaise sauce, I gave a recipe for hollandaise in this column a few months ago.
Asparagus is wonderful chargrilled with a steak or tossed through a salad or just steamed and served with a little butter, black pepper, and lemon juice as a side dish. It is one of my favourite vegetables; delicately but distinctively flavoured and super nutritious.
This week’s recipe features asparagus with baked salmon, pesto, lemon, red peppers tomatoes and Parmesan. I love Parmesan cheese. A little grating of it over a dish can add a lovely bit of flavour. I often use it almost as a seasoning. Here it features in the pesto of course, but I also scatter a good sprinkle of grated Parmesan over the final dish just before I serve it. It finishes this dish off perfectly.
This is another quite simple dish that is quick to prepare. There really is very little to it, and not much prep work involved apart from a little chopping of the vegetables.
I use skinless fillets of salmon, so if you need to remove the skin yourself that take a few minutes. If you would find that too fiddly and cannot get hold of skinless fillets, you can of course just leave the skin on. One fillet of salmon per person is a decent serving, though I will often eat two myself!
If you are determined to make this a bit more complicated, you could also make your own pesto. That is quite simple to do, but most supermarkets stock decent fresh pesto, so if you want to save time, that works perfectly.
I would suggest that you do not use the type usually found in jars in the dried pasta section though. Instead, go for a fresh pesto from the chilled section. It will be much tastier.
I served this dish with some pasta with pesto and lemon. Just cook some pasta, a penne or other shaped pasta would work well, but leave it a little al dente so that it has some bite to it. Save a little of the starchy water you have cooked the pasta in when draining it off.
Toss the cooked pasta in a few tablespoons of pesto, lots of freshly grated Parmesan, the zest and juice of half a lemon and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little of the reserved starchy pasta water to bind everything into a smooth sauce and you are ready to go.
If you want to keep this light and very healthy, have a salad instead of the pasta, or if you really want some carbs, a few boiled baby new potatoes with a little pesto and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese would be perfect too.
- 4 skinless fillets of salmon
- 125g cherry tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 8 fresh asparagus spears
- 1 lemon
- A few tsp of fresh pesto and some more to serve
- Some freshly grated Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A little olive oil
Heat oven to 180°C. Pop the salmon fillets onto a roasting tray. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and the juice of half a lemon.
Wash the vegetables. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus spears. Halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the red pepper and asparagus into two and a half centimetre pieces. Toss the vegetables in a little olive oil and arrange them around the salmon on the roasting tray.
Spoon a little pesto over each salmon fillet. Not too much as you will add more before serving, about a teaspoon per fillet of fish is perfect. Now pop the tray into the oven and roast it for 15 to 20 minutes until the salmon is nicely cooked. By then your vegetables should be lovely, slightly roasted but left with a little crunch and full of flavour.
It is time now to plate up your dish. Place a fillet of salmon on a warm plate. Spoon over a little more fresh pesto. Add some of the roast vegetables and grate some Parmesan cheese over the dish.
And that is it. A delicious healthy meal in less than thirty minutes. Serve it with your preferred accompaniment — salad, pasta or some new potatoes. It really is a wonderful meal. Full of fresh, bright flavours and extremely healthy.