last week it ramps, a cartoon, and a flatbread recipe… and now asparagus gets a go. a couple days ago i wrote about how we’re using asparagus at the restaurant, and how eager i am for it to start showing up at the farmers’ markets here in chicago. and of course, my friend loc gave us another great drawing to go with our halibut and asparagus dish—and the cartoon still begs the question, if a halibut eats asparagus and pees in the ocean, does the entire ocean smell like pee? well, today it’s recipe time. this is a pretty easy one to do at home, and will make a kick ass snack or side dish to put out for dinner at home or even a party during the bulls game. enjoy!

tempura fried asparagus with olive aioli
serves 4-6

olive aioli
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup blended vegetable oil
½ cup chopped pitted nicoise or kalamata olives

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cold soda water
about 1 cup canola or peanut oil
1 pound fresh asparagus (thin stalks about the size of a pencil)

1. to make the aioli: preheat the oven to 400°f. cut
the head of garlic in half horizontally and place the
two halves on a piece of aluminum foil. drizzle the
olive oil over the garlic and then fold up all four sides
of the foil, pinching them together to make a pouch
around the garlic. roast the garlic until the cloves are
tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes.

2. let the garlic cool and then pop the cloves out of the
skins. smash the cloves into a paste and transfer them
to a blender. add the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon
juice and pulse several times to combine the ingredients.
with the blender running, add the blended oil in
a slow, steady stream through the lid of the blender.
process until the aioli is thick and smooth. transfer
it to a small bowl and fold in the olives. set aside or
refrigerate until ready to use.

3. to make the tempura: whisk together the flour,
cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. add the
soda water, whisking briskly until the batter is just
slightly thinner than pancake batter.

4. heat the canola oil to 375°f in a wide dutch oven
or large saute pan with high sides. using tongs or your
fingers, dip the asparagus spears in the tempura batter
to coat and fry them in batches, 6 to 8 spears at
a time, depending on the size of the pot. (slowly drop
the asparagus in one at a time, being careful to not
overcrowd the oil with spears, which will drop the oil
temperature, resulting in a soggy coating.) when they
are golden brown, remove the fried spears with tongs,
transfer them to a paper towel to drain, and sprinkle
with salt and pepper. repeat the process in batches.

5. serve immediately with the olive aioli.