Grilled Asparagus with Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Pinot Noir Syrup

June 1, 2008

Grilled Asparagus with Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Pinot Noir Syrup
Varietal: Rosé or Pinot Noir

Serves 4

This lovely grilled asparagus recipe comes from Holly Smith, chef/owner of Café Juanita in Kirkland, Washington. It showcases several of the Northwest’s iconic items, including asparagus (known as “Yakima grass,” for it grows so quickly in the eastern part of Washington State during the summer months), hazelnuts (Oregon grows 97 percent of the country’s crop), and Pinot Noir. Perfect for summertime entertaining, the dish pairs nicely with either a slightly sweet Rosé or a young, berry-rich Pinot Noir.

2 pounds asparagus, hard ends removed, remaining portion rinsed, drained, and patted dry

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Hazelnut Vinaigrette (Recipe follows)

Pinot Noir Syrup (Recipe follows)

2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the grill or broiler.

2. Toss the asparagus in the olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

3. Grill or broil the asparagus, turning occasionally, until just tender (do not overcook!), 3 to 6 minutes (depending on thickness).

4. To serve, divide the asparagus among individual plates. Drizzle with the Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Pinot Noir Syrup, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts and serve warm or at room temperature.

Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Makes 3/4 cup

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1/4 cup hazelnut oil

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1. Place the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar in a large bowl and whisk in the hazelnut oil and olive oil a few drops at a time until the mixture turns thick and smooth, then season to taste with salt. Alternatively, place the first four ingredients in a blender or food processor, pulse a few times to blend, then add the oils in a slow, steady stream until the sauce turns smooth and thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt.

2. Pour the sauce into a bowl or jar. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for later use.

Pinot Noir Syrup

Makes 2/3 cup

5 tablespoons organic granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar

1 bottle (750 milliliter) good-quality Pinot Noir or other red varietal, such as Merlot or Zinfandel

1. Melt the sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the sugar turns golden. This will take 3 to 5 minutes, but watch carefully, since the sugar can burn quickly.

2. Carefully and slowly add one-quarter of the wine, which will bubble vigorously, stirring up the sugar mixture from the bottom of the pan. If desired, wear oven mitts to protect your hands from splatters. Add the remaining wine, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced to about 2/3 cup, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat, cool at room temperature, and place in a glass jar or bottle. The syrup will thicken as it cools, and can be stored at room temperature for several months.

Cook’s Hint: When making the Pinot Noir Syrup, Holly prefers using organic instead of nonorganic granulated sugar. She explains, “Organic sugar melts and caramelizes quickly because it contains less water, plus it’s a beautiful pale golden color. I find it has a finer taste that’s less sweet in some ways than regular granulated sugar.”

Recipe reprinted from the Pike Place Market Cookbook, Second Edition (Sasquatch Books, $18.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.