A bold take on asparagus

The first few weeks of asparagus season are a frenzied time in our house.

In order to devour as many of the grassy stalks as possible, I keep their preparation elemental: a quick stint in a hot pan or steamer basket before a plunge in vinaigrette or aioli, if there’s some already in the fridge. If I’m in need of protein, I might top the asparagus with a fried egg. But it doesn’t get much more elaborate than that until at least the third or fourth week.

That’s when, having had my fervent fill, I can take a more leisurely and experimental approach to the rest of the season’s bounty.

And that’s when it’s time for this roasted asparagus and scallion salad with pecorino.

To make it, scallions and asparagus are roasted on the same sheet pan. The asparagus gets browned at the tips, and the scallions caramelize and crisp.

You can control the degree of your asparagus’s softness by choosing the size with care. Thin ones will roast up tender and very floppy. Thick ones will stay firm and unbending. In either case, the scallions practically melt into the stalks in a sweet, golden tangle.

Before roasting, I toss both with olive oil and a little soy sauce, which deepens their flavor.

If you’re in search of a very simple side dish, stop here: It’s delicious as is. But at this point in asparagus season, I like to keep going.

Into the bowl go some whole grains, to add a plump and chewy texture, and to bulk things up.

Use freekeh, if you can find it. A type of wheat, it’s a lot like farro, except that it’s been harvested while still green, then toasted, which gives it a gently smoky flavor. Farro, however, is a perfectly fine substitute. Or go rogue and substitute quinoa or brown rice or kamut — anything nubby should work nicely here.

Finally, to add richness and tang, I shave in some sheep’s milk cheese. The earthiness of a young pecorino or a manchego goes nicely with the scallions’ sweetness. But an aged cheddar or Gouda, both cow’s milk cheeses, would also work.

The flavors in this salad are not necessarily intuitive, unlike asparagus with fried eggs. But the assortment of ingredients and textures works well. And they will give you something new to savor, even as asparagus season gets old.

Roasted Asparagus and Scallion Salad

Kosher salt, as needed

1/4 cup freekeh or farro

2 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or minced

Fine sea salt and black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), woody ends trimmed

1 bunch scallions (about 5 ounces), halved lengthwise and crosswise to form 2-inch-long ribbons

3 ounces (3 cups) salad greens, such as baby arugula

Pecorino Rossellino or other young sheep’s milk cheese, as needed (optional)

Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil, stir in freekeh or farro, cover, and simmer until al dente, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, and pinch salt and pepper. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons oil, whisking constantly.

Drain freekeh and stir immediately into dressing while still warm.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread asparagus and scallions over a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle liberally with oil, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then arrange in a single layer. Roast until they start to char in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly: The asparagus are best while still a little warm but not hot enough to wilt the greens.

Toss salad greens in the bowl with freekeh and dressing until leaves are coated, and transfer to serving platter. Top with roasted asparagus and scallions, shave cheese over salad if you like, and serve. Serves 2 to 4.

Per serving, based on 2: 372 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 11 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 22 grams fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 463 milligrams sodium.

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