|Roasted Asparagus with Walnut Crema and Pecorino
For walnut crema:
1 ½ cups raw walnuts
½ cup plus 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 bunches fat asparagus (about 30 spears, total)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 block Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Tartufo
Lemon wedges, optional
To make the walnut crema, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the walnuts, and blanch for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender in the middle. Drain the walnuts, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Set aside separately.
In a small skillet, warm 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt, and sweat for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown and softened. Remove from the heat.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, the reserved cooking water, and the onion, and process until creamy. Taste for seasoning: it will probably need a decent amount of salt. With the motor running, slowly add ½ cup olive oil, processing until blended. The crema should have the consistency of a creamy hummus. If it seems too thick, add a little water. Taste again for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl or other container. Cover, and hold at room temperature. (Crema can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
Snap the tough ends from the asparagus spears. Rinse them, and then dry them well. Spread them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Drizzle them lightly with olive oil, and roll them around, smearing the oil with your hands, to coat evenly. Season with kosher salt. Bake for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until blistered, slightly charred, and tender.
To serve, spoon the crema evenly across the bottom of a platter. Arrange the asparagus spears on top. Working quickly, while the asparagus is still hot, shave Pecorino generously over the platter. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon, if you like.
Yield: 6 (first-course) servings - Adapted from Food & Wine