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Asparagus and Beets with Romesco Mayonnaise

A spicy Catalan-inspired tomato-almond mayonnaise makes a wonderful sauce for spears of asparagus and wedges of beets.

Ingredients:

For the romesco mayonnaise:

  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup seeded and finely chopped, drained canned plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb. asparagus
  • 12 small beets

Directions:

To make the romesco mayonnaise, in a mortar, combine the garlic with a little coarse salt and, using a pestle, grind together to form a paste. Alternatively, in a bowl, mash together with a fork or the back of a spoon. Place the mayonnaise in a bowl and stir in the garlic paste. Fold in the almonds, tomatoes, cayenne, tomato puree, vinegar, salt and black pepper until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate.

Remove the tough ends of the asparagus; trim the spears to a uniform length. If the stalks are thick, using a vegetable peeler and starting about 2 inches below the tips, peel off the thin outer skins.

Half fill a large, wide fry pan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus spears and boil until tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes; the timing will depend upon the thickness of the stalks. Drain well and immerse immediately in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain well again and pat dry.

To bake the beets, preheat an oven to 375°F. Trim the greens off the beets (reserve for another use), leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems intact. Rinse the beets well but do not peel, pat dry and wrap together in aluminum foil, sealing tightly. Place in a baking dish and add water to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Bake until tender when pierced, 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size and age of the beets. Add more water as needed to make steam. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove and discard the foil. Peel the beets and cut into wedges.

To serve, place the beets and asparagus on a platter. Pass the mayonnaise in a bowl. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, On the Side, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).