I heart San Francisco’s New May Wah grocery store! Spanning half a city block, this Asian mega-market boasts an entire aisle dedicated to dried fungi and seaweed alone. The coauthor and I love to make a day of roaming the aisles, boldly throwing mystery foods into our cart (gogi leaves, anchovy crunch, ambiguously-packaged powders), and then trying to figure out what to do with them. The staff isn’t exactly the “How may I help you today?” type, but the lack of guidance only adds to the adventure. (Tangent: if your own Asian supermarket confuses and intimidates you, get yourself a copy of The Asian Grocery Store Demystified, by Linda Bladholm.)
Anyway, I’m not sure why NMW was selling asparagus for $1.39 per pound in the middle of December—and I’m not sure I really want to know. But never one to question a source of cheap asparagus, I gleefully snatched up a couple of bundles. I was going to a dinner party that night, and had to bring an entree that would not require last-minute heating in a crowded kitchen. So I tossed some fresh basil and a bag of cooked shrimp into my shopping basket, and along with a few other basic ingredients I already had at home, whipped up this simple, flavorful, colorful, portable salad.
Cold Asparagus and Shrimp Salad
1¼ pounds asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears sliced into 1½-inch lengths
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
¼–½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of your lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
½ pound cooked shrimp
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Put asparagus slices in a steamer basket placed inside a pot filled with about an inch of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat, lower heat, cover pot, and steam asparagus until just tender (2 to 6 minutes, depending on thickness of the spears). Place asparagus in a serving bowl and let cool in the fridge.
While asparagus is steaming and cooling, combine lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl or a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Add olive oil and whisk or shake vigorously until well combined. Taste and add salt, pepper, or sugar if needed. Add onion, letting it marinate in the dressing for a few minutes.
Toss shrimp, basil, pine nuts, and cheese with the asparagus (reserving a little of the cheese to sprinkle on top after dressing). Add the marinated onion and lemon vinaigrette to taste (you may have some vinaigrette left over). Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Serves 4 to 6.