There are so many things that I love about Baja California (the people! the food! the creativity!) that it's hard to list. But one thing I know for sure: chef Sheyla Alvarado of TrasLomita in Valle De Guadalupe is one of my favorite chefs in the region. Sure, she's younger and not as well-known as some of the first generation Baja chefs who put the cuisine on the map, but she's made a name for herself in the few short years she's been at the helm at TrasLomita (the sister restaurant to one of my favorite wineries in Baja: La Lomita).
The first time I ever ate there she came out with this charred asparagus salad dish that totally stopped me in my tracks. It was not too fussy and totally farm-to-table to the max but way more complex that what it first looked to be. And that's how her cooking is: there's this subtle complexity that's totally showstopping.
I'd be lying if I said I could recreate the same dish she made so this is more a nod to her than anything else. The pencil-thin asparagus are charred on a grill then tossed with a quick lime and olive oil combo. The twist I added was making a twist on Egyptian dukkah (a seed-herb-nut mix used for dipping bread) and used classic Mexican ingredients like cumin, Mexican oregano, pistachios, and almonds. The dish then gets finished with the best requeson (ie ricotta) you can find and a few nasturtium leaves (if you're like me, you may have to forage them from a neighbor's yard) and, while it's not quite chef Sheyla's dish, it's a showstopper just the same.
or shelled raw pistachios, roughly chopped
thinly sliced, for garnish
trimmed, for garnish
For The Dukkah: Place the nuts in a large dry frying pan over medium-low heat and toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the sesaame and spices to the skillet and toast, shaking the skillet frequently, until fragrant about another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the pan cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Combine nuts, seeds, spices, and a pinch of salt in a mini food processor or mortar and pestle and pulse or grind until nuts and seeds are broken up and you have a uniformly coarse mixture. Set the dukkah aside until ready to use.
Dukkah can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored refrigerated in an airtight container. You will have more dukkah than you need for this recipe -- use it as a dip for bread with olive oil or use as a crunchy topping for a salad!
For The Asparagus: Bring a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, brush the asparagus with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven or in a small frying pan over medium heat until dark brown but not burned, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool then cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces and toss with the lime juice and olive oil.
To Serve: Place the asparagus in a serving dish, scatter a few spoonfuls of the ricotta all around, top with a few spoonsfuls of the dukkah then top with the scallions and nasturtium flowers and serve.
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