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Asparagus Caprese Salad

Fresh, seasonal asparagus take center stage in this versatile spring dish.
Asparagus Caprese Salad
2 cups trimed asparagus
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, slices or small balls
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Balsamic Vinaigrette
OPTIONAL – 8 ounces sliced cooked pasta, steak, chicken, salami

Wash asparagus in cold water; trim tough bottom ends (see below for tips); cut into uniform spears or cut into 1-1 1/2 inch lengths. Cook as desired (see below for tips). Wash and slice tomatoes. Slice cheese. Arrange tomatoes, asparagus and cheese on serving plate. Add optional ingredients if desired. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Wash and pat dry fresh basil. Coarsely tear or cut into julienne strips and sprinkle over salad. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Notes:
Caprese salad makes a great appetizer, wonderful spring luncheon entrée when meats are added, or the perfect side to your barbecue. Ingredients are adjustable. Serves approximately 4

Asparagus Selection and Preparation Tips:
Selection – Choose asparagus with firm, bright spears with compact tips. Gently bend the spear, it should give just a little.

Storage – Trim off bottom of spears – like cutting flower stems – and stand in a glass with 1-inch water, store in refrigerator.

Prepping – Cut spears when they are short and tender. Even the fat spears will be tender when cut while short. The tough stringy bottom end of the spears needs to be trimmed or peeled.
– Bend at the bottom and snap off to remove much of the tough end.
– If the spear is not too thin and you have the patience you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the touch outer part. It also creates a pretty color variation.

Cooking – Don’t overcook! Asparagus should be fork tender, still bright green and not mushy. Try one of these methods:
· Roast: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1 pound asparagus in a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with a spoonful of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Shake pan halfway through.

· Microwave: Place 1 pound asparagus and 1 tablespoon water in glass baking dish. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on High 2 minutes; rearrange spears and microwave 2 to 3 minutes longer.

· Sauté: In nonstick large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon butter and 2 tablespoons water over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add asparagus and cover; reduce heat to medium and cook 4 minutes. Increase to medium-high; cook, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes or until asparagus is tender and liquid evaporates

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