Photograph by Theo Vamvounakis Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero Prop Styling by Theo Vamvounakis

Sleight of Hand Salad

Starters from Issue 6 – Fall / Winter 2015 – Magic

Manual dexterity and magic can go hand in hand. While the shell game—the classic ruse uses three walnut shells and a pea—is more con than trick, it is confidence and a swift hand that will wow (and, often, swindle) onlookers. We summoned its essence with ghostly asparagus fingers splayed atop a schmear of peas and crunchy garlic walnuts.

serves 4

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • ½ cup packed basil
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bunch white asparagus or (1 16-oz jar for a cheat’s sleight of hand)

  • 1

    Cook peas in boiling salted water 2 minutes then drain and chill in a bowl of ice cold water. Drain.

  • 2

    With the motor of a food processor running, drop ¼ cup walnuts and 1 garlic clove into the feed tube. Process until finely chopped. Transfer to a plate and set aside for topping. Again, with the motor running, process remaining 2 Tbsp walnuts and clove garlic until finely chopped. Add peas, basil, cheese, 3 Tbsp oil, ¼ tsp salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Process until light and spreadable. Add a little water if needed. Transfer to a bowl.

  • 3

    Bring a skillet of salted water to a boil along with butter and lemon juice. Trim ½ inch from bottoms of asparagus and carefully peel stems. (Asparagus are fragile so don’t fret if they break.) Simmer until tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If using jarred asparagus, you won’t need to cook them.) Drain asparagus, cool, then toss with a little extra oil and lemon juice.

  • 4

    Heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat until golden. Toast reserved garlicky walnuts with a pinch of salt. Serve sprinkled on asparagus over pesto.