We delight when a green asparagus stalk rises up through newly warmed soil, signaling to us the additional goodness to come. Celebrate it
12 to 16 medium asparagus spears
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some grated and some in slices
1 lemon wedge
1 cup arugula, washed and spun dry
Fresh ground black pepper
First, trim the asparagus, cutting 1 or 2 inches off the woody ends. With a swivel peeler, shave the bottom 3 to 4 inches of the stalks, taking off the harder outer skin. As you work, set the peeled asparagus in a shallow dish filled with cold water. Soak it for 5 minutes, then drain. (This seems to rehydrate the asparagus and help it cook more quickly.)
Meanwhile, make a vinaigrette: In a small glass bowl, combine the vinegar and a good pinch of salt. After a minute, add the garlic and whisk in the olive oil and a few drops of water. It should thicken and smooth a little. Set it aside.
In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus lying flat, heat 2 inches of water over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add a good pinch of salt, then add the asparagus and put a lid on the pan. Allow the water to return to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low to maintain a gentle boil. The asparagus should be done in 3 to 4 minutes, when they are slightly softened but still firm. If it is the very skinny early asparagus, it will be done in 1 minute. Better to be early—you do not want stringy, overcooked asparagus, and that can mean no more than 30 seconds too long. If you smell asparagus, you are at the edge of too long. Get them out quickly and drain them well.
Lay the asparagus on a warmed platter. Sprinkle them with some sea salt, some grated Parmesan, and a little lemon juice. Lay the arugula on top, add the vinaigrette and the shaved Parmesan, and finish with a couple grindings of black pepper.