I found jewel-like red currants at the local Whole Foods Store. I have only seen these currants used on top of fancy looking pastries or for muffins and cakes and I am not a baker. Yet, these currants were so beautiful that I just couldn’t resist buying them even though at that time I didn’t know what I was going to do with them. Finally I decided to use them in a dressing on a warm salad. I rummaged through the refrigerator and found a bunch of asparagus that I had forgotten to cook earlier. Yes, I guess I am not a very organized person – I don’t buy groceries in accordance with meal plans made ahead of time (yes, Rachel Ray, so sue me!!!). Instead I walk through the aisles of a supermarket or the farmer’s market and buy whatever looks good; then I come home and think of ways to use the ingredients. Often I forget things that I had bought and stored in some back corner of the refrigerator. Each time this happens, I either end up using the slightly stale vegetables for my dogs or I end up having to deal with the mounds of guilt at having to throw away food. Anyway, this time the asparagus was still very fresh and crisp. So I roasted the asparagus spears, sprinkled some fresh pomegranate seeds on it for texture and added the bright pink currant dressing on top. Every now and then I surprise myself with a recipe that turns out better than even my own expectations. This was clearly one of those times – the dish looked so beautiful because the dark green of the asparagus contrasted really well against the diamond-like facets of the pomegranate seeds and the bright pink thick currant dressing looked beautiful and luscious on top. The salad tasted just as good as it looked – with sweet and sour bursts from the pomegranate seeds and the smokiness of the roasted asparagus. I loved this so much that this year I have decided to add this to our Christmas menu and the bright red and green colors will make this most appropriate for the occasion.
1. 1 lb of green asparagus spears
2. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3. Salt and pepper to taste
4. 1/3 of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
5. Two tablespoons of fresh red currants (if you can find currants, use fresh raspberries)
6. 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
7. 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of honey (the quantity of honey may vary with the level of tartness of the currants)
8. ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
9. ¼ of a cup of fresh pomegranate seeds
1. Heat the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash the asparagus spears with cold water and completely dry them with kitchen paper towels. Cut off the thick hard edge of the asparagus shoots. It is essential to have the asparagus completely dry or it will get steamed rather than roasted in the oven.
3. Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on the asparagus and using a pair of tongs move the spears around so that they get coasted with oil in all the sides.
4. Place the oiled asparagus on a baking sheet and place it in the heated oven (middle rack) for 8 minutes or so.
5. While the asparagus is getting roasted you can start preparing the dressing. Gently take all the currants off their stems and place them in a small food processor. Add honey, one tablespoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Now pulse the food processor 8-10 times. Taste the dressing to see if you like the balance between sweetness and tartness and adjust according to your taste.
7. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar on the asparagus and using tongs coat the asparagus with the vinegar as evenly as you can. Now place the asparagus in the oven for another 3-4 minutes. If the asparagus spears are thick, you may need to increase the roasting time.
9. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top of the asparagus.
10. Drizzle the currant dressing over the asparagus spears and serve this either while the asparagus is still warm or at room temperature.