Asparagus with Pine Nuts & Capers

Whenever I make dinner for my whole family (parents & siblings), they are disappointed if I don’t serve this very simple asparagus dish.  I usually steam the asparagus, but the sauce also works on roasted asparagus and on haricots vert.  If this dish is your contribution to a potluck, it is best to have the sauce made separately beforehand and to assemble the recipe on location in order to avoid making the asparagus and pine nuts soggy.  The recipe is adapted from Williams Sonoma Simple Classics Cookbook.  Serves 6.

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 pounds of asparagus

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (unsalted is pretty important because the capers tend to be very salty)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup capers, drained (if you have especially salty capers, it’s best to rinse them in cold water)

1/4 lb. Parmesan cheese (I like Grana Padano.  If you get the pre-grated stuff, 1/4 pound is about a cup)

1. Toast the pine nuts.  Use a skillet on medium heat tossing occasionally for a minute or two until light brown.

2. Break the tough ends off of the asparagus.  Steam until tender.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add the lemon juice and capers.  Season to taste with pepper.  Cook for 30-40 seconds–don’t let the butter brown.  Adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, lemon) as necessary.

4. Assemble.  Put asparagus in serving dish, cover with lemon-butter-caper mix, sprinkle pine nuts, and shave the cheese.  A vegetable peeler works great to get pretty Parmesan curls, but it tastes just as good if you grate the cheese on the large hole side of the grater and almost as good if you use pre-grated Grana Padano.  I’ve never tried Kraft Parmesan in this recipe, but I imagine it would be pretty gross.

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