Asparagus Tempura Salad with Coconut-Peanut-Lime Dressing
When I need inspiration I go out to eat and make a few notes. Then I go back to the kitchen.
This absolutely wonderful salad recipe is my interpretation of a dish I've had several times at the Green Elephant restaurant, around the corner from us in this food-obsessed town (Portland, Maine).
Yes, this dish includes several questionable elements, health-wise: coconut milk (high caloric content), deep-fried food (always suspect because it requires a potful of oil), etc. But this is good food; if portions are controlled it brings high pleasure with reasonable levels of fat and carbs.
The tempura preparation of asparagus intensifies and enhances the taste of the asparagus, with the addition of a satisfying crunch. Combined with fresh greens, the tangy crunch of the onions and the coconut-peanut-lime dressing, this is a real hit.
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons peanut butter
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
For the tempura batter:
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup seltzer, room temperature
For the asparagus tempura:
- 4 ounces fresh asparagus
- 3 cups vegetable oil
For the salad:
- 4 ounces fresh greens, washed and dried (arugula, spring mix, pea shoots, etc.)
- 1 slice red onion, halved
- 1/4 sweet red pepper, trimmed of seeds and membranes and cut in 1/4" x 1" pieces
- 2 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 1" piece of cucumber sliced thinly, slices halved
- 1 egg, boiled 9 minutes, then immersed in cold water
1. Prepare the dressing: mix the coconut milk, peanut butter, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and hot sauce until smooth. Set aside.
2. Prepare the tempura batter: whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sesame seeds (if using), salt, baking soda and seltzer.
3. Snap off the root ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus stalks into 2" pieces. Wash the asparagus and dry thoroughly. Add the asparagus pieces to the tempura batter mix, stirring to make sure that all pieces are submerged and well-coated with the batter.
4. Place 3 cups vegetable oil in a 2-quart (or larger) pan on high heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 375º. Using tongs, drop half the asparagus pieces into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 90 seconds. Remove to a sieve placed over a plate to drain. Allow the oil to return to 375º if necessary and fry the remaining asparagus pieces.
To serve, cut the egg in half and remove the shell. Toss the other salad ingredients in a bowl and transfer to serving plates. Top with the asparagus tempura pieces and place the egg halves alongside the salad servings. Serve the dressing on the side.