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Asparagus with Almonds & Yogurt Dressing
The yogurt dressing below will make more than you need, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to make this again soon and will be glad you have it around. If you have a hot smoked paprika around, I am sure it would make a wonderful, kicky substitution for half the paprika. Chipotle powder, which is also smoky and hot, can impart a similar flavor. If you don’t have smoked paprika around, regular paprika with a pinch of ground cumin will add some smoky depth as well. Sumac powder, with an almost tart or sour paprika flavor, would be delicious in here as well. The longer the yogurt dressing rests, the more garlicky it will become.
The pan-roasting technique is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, and I will treasure it because it manages to allow you to get the blistery, crisp-but-tender effect you might from a grill, without requiring that you either have a grill or run your oven for a long time. Hooray!
This dish is great warm but was also delicious at room temperature. Because of this, I think it would make an excellent brown bag lunch, cutting the spears into smaller segments that would easily fit in a container.
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole blanched almonds, Marconas if you can get them
1 cup plain yogurt (strained or Greek-style if you can find it)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pounds asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed or peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Hard-boil your eggs according to your favorite method. I like to put my eggs cold in a pot of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, I set the timer for 10 minutes and reduce the heat to a moderate simmer. When the timer goes off, I drain them and plunge them in ice water for a quick cooling. While they cool, toast your almonds. [If you have time, cook the eggs 24 hours or more in advance. Older hard-boiled eggs peel more cleanly.]
In a 12-inch heavy skillet, toast your almonds over medium heat, tossing them frequently until they’re lightly bronzed. [Marcona almonds often come already toasted and in a bit of olive oil. If you’re happy with their color, use them as is. If not, you can put the almonds and oil in the skillet to toast them more deeply, as I did.] Let cool.
Once eggs and almonds are cool, coarsely chop both and set aside.
Make your yogurt dressing, whisking all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spread 1/2 cup dressing in a thin layer over serving dish and set aside.
Reheat heavy 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, and once the oil is fully heated, add your trimmed asparagus spears — placing half in one direction and half in the other allows them to fit better. They won’t fit flat in a single layer, but you should try to spread them as evenly as possible. Cover the skillet with a lid (foil if you don’t have one that fits) and let skinny spears cook for 3 minutes and fatter ones for 5. Remove the lid, increase the heat to high, season the asparagus with salt and black pepper, and use tongs to cook the spears until they’re crisp-tender and well-browned along a side or two, about 5 minutes more for skinny spears or 7 minutes for thicker ones.
Transfer asparagus to dressing-coated serving dish. Sprinkle spears with an additional squeeze of lemon juice, if desired, a tiny drizzle of olive oil, chopped almonds, eggs and a bit of coarse sea salt. Dollop with additional yogurt dressing. Then dig in.