White Asparagus with Pistachio Oil & Lemon

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When the weather was frigid this past winter, all I could think of was the thick, dark drinking chocolate I drank when I traveled in Spain years ago. But now that it’s spring, and winter is trying (not hard enough) to take her leave, my mind is inspired by another of the Spanish delights I experienced for the first time there—white asparagus.

White, of course, always catches my eye, but white asparagus can’t trump spring’s green asparagus for pure green beauty. The green and the white asparagus are at heart different varieties of the same plant, but the white is kept that way under mounds of dirt. In the end white asparagus looks like it could use a few days in south Florida. My white asparagus, and yours, is not typically going to be local, either. It’s a treat, though, even if we’re stretching out to Peru to have some.

What we’re missing in white asparagus’s color is made up for in a flavor and texture that Europeans prefer over our more popular green. White asparagus, if cooked and dressed properly, yields delicacy, sweetness and tenderness; it is to me the ultimate companion to our pistachio oil and a dusting of pistachio nuts. Everybody is good to each other in this dish, generously allowing the others’ strengths to shine. The Lebanese love of pistachios would accept nothing less….

This is a simple post for simple food. But when ingredients are this extraordinary, all we’re really trying to do is stand back and let it all be. Handle with care. And prepare ourselves for a whole season ahead of the same.

White Asparagus with Pistachio Oil & Lemon
White asparagus takes much longer to cook than green asparagus; there is no pleasure in an al dente white asparagus spear (too fibrous and difficult to cut). The acidulated (lemon) water flavors the asparagus beautifully. An avocado added to your plate of asparagus is very good too. Makes 4 servings.

1 pound white asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
20 pistachios, shelled
4 teaspoons pistachio oil
Sea salt, to finish

Trim the asparagus by breaking the ends off (at their natural break) and peeling from just beneath the tip to the end with a vegetable peeler. Place the asparagus in a large sauté pan and cover with water. Squeeze the lemon into the pan and add the teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking for about 20 minutes, or until a spear can be easily cut with a knife and fork. Drain and set aside to cool to room temperature.

To get the greenest pistachio nuts for garnish, remove the thin papery skin on each one by rubbing it off between your fingers and thumb. Coarsely chop the pistachios.

Divide the asparagus among four individual plates, or pile them evenly on a platter.

Sprinkle the pistachios across the center of the asparagus, forming a little line. Drizzle with pistachio oil, and finish with the salt.

Print this recipe here.

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  1. Archana says:

    I stumbled on your blog while I was looking for something else, but this recipe is truly amazing! Simple and authentic.
    Archana, Svaad

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      What a wonderful compliment, Archana–thank you!

  2. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abood (Jamileh) from Ammun Leb. says:

    Maureen, I just received my La Tourangelle Pistachio Oil and Pistachio Syrup–the syrup is divine, tried it all by itself but will put in coffee and warm milk as well–and will use both next Dec when I make my Christmas baklava. And definitely, I will make this white asparagus the next time I have a small dinner party–how lovely. Your radio interview was wonderful-you are as elegant, inventive, and touching, speaking spontaneously into a microphone as you are composing at the keyboard, and framing pictures behind the lens. Kudos to you my sweet Cousin! Yes, all because it comes from your heart–that is what art is–it is authentic!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      I am humbled Diane, thank you…

  3. Hollye Jacobs, The Silver Pen says:

    This looks AMAZING, Maureen. …and those plates are GORGEOUS!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you Hollye! If you make the asparagus, let me know how you like it!

  4. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abood (Jamileh) from Ammun Leb. says:

    Maureen, did your Mother crochet the beautiful tablecloth? My Mother crocheted and she had a gorgeous tablecloth that her Mother, Jamileh Abowd Atty (Atiyeh), had crocheted at the beginning of the 20th c (I never knew her). My Mother used that beautiful tablecloth every Thanksgiving and for every special family dinner — by the late 20th c, it eventually fell apart into nothing but strings, way beyond repair. I am thankful for the memories–all of which return to me because of your sweet, beautiful sensibility. Thank you, Dear Maureen.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Diane, my Sitto also crocheted beautifully! That cloth is similar to her handiwork but is not hers. Thank you for the memory of yours and all of our grandmothers’ beautiful crafts.

  5. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abood (Jamileh) from Ammun Leb. says:

    Maureen, because of your column, I ordered the above Pistachio Oil and it just arrived–I also ordered their Pistachio Syrup, and although I don’t drink coffee or tea, I am really looking forward to having a cup of my husband’s delicious coffee tomorrow morning with the Pistachio Syrup.
    And Beth, yes my very same thoughts although I could not have stated it better than you: Maureen, the choice of plate with the white asparagus is stunning! Kudos to you both!

  6. Beth (OMG! Yummy) says:

    I have never cooked with white asparagus but gosh, do I love this idea. And perhaps another use for the Pistachio Dust from Cheryl’s RIPE cookbook! I love how you used a patterned plate for the photo – it’s lovely. I bought some patterned plates at Williams Sonoma a while ago waiting for the right salad or veggie to go on top – I know the photo experts always tell you to use solid colors – white if possible – but with the right subject, the color and pattern is just perfect. Nice post Maureen.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you Beth! Those plates were my grandmother’s, and they are beloved!