Begged to be served a la Famiglia style with a crusty loaf of bread on the side, the candied lemon adds sweet, bitter brightness and pairs beautifully with the asparagus.
Inspired by the Amalfi Coast, the ingredients in this recipe are typically found in Southern Italy – lemons and buffalo mozzarella, both found in Paestum, located near the Campania region. In order to accentuate the flavor of the lemon, the dish can be prepared in two different ways. The candied peel adds a lovely sweet and bitter element with a bright and zingy note to any salad and pairs particularly well with the vibrant and fresh asparagus. Meanwhile, the dressing brings more depth to the lemon flavor, in addition to the lovely crunch of the poppy seeds. The buffalo mozzarella adds richness and creaminess to the dish, while balancing out the acidity of the lemon.
In a typically Italian way, this recipe focuses on a small number of ingredients to allow the freshness and simplicity of the flavors to shine. You may try this salad as an appetizer served a la Famiglia style with a crusty loaf of bread on the side, but it could also be made into a main course with the addition of grains and nuts.
To prepare the candied lemon, peel and julienne the lemons into large strips. Place in a small saucepan before squeezing the lemon and reserving 1⁄2 cup of the juice. Add the juice to the saucepan with 1⁄2 cup water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the syrup has been reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
In order to prepare the dressing, begin by combining lemon juice with honey and mustard in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil to emulsify. Add poppy seeds, salt and shallots. Season to taste. In a large, wide saucepan, steam asparagus for one to two minutes, until bright green but still crunchy. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl of iced water. Leave to cool. When ready to serve, drain the asparagus and gently pat dry. Place onto a large platter. Top with buffalo mozzarella and candied lemon. Garnish with microgreens and drizzle lemon dressing. Season to taste.
2 lbs. asparagus, woody stems snapped off
250 grams buffalo mozzarella, torn into large pieces
Microgreens or arugula to garnish
Candied Lemon Peel
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 cup sugar
Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
2 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄2 tsp. poppy seed
1 tsp. diced shallot
1⁄2 tsp. salt