This recipe was inspired by my friend Barbara, a visual artist who also happens to be an accomplished cook and gardener; it’s a dish that serves as a great showcase of all her talents. When she made these recently for a pot luck party at my house, I knew I’d have to replicate her very successful experiment, tinkering just a little with the seasoning. I’ve also provided Barb’s unique cooking method for the asparagus – it’s so much easier than steaming and guarantees that the asparagus won’t end up limp and overcooked. One of the things I love most about this recipe is that you can prepare the rolls up to 8 hours before serving, making them ideal for a party, as an hors d’oeuvre platter or plated appetizer. And please, let me apologize in advance for how addictive this dish is.
- 16 spears fresh asparagus
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) cream cheese, softened
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground coriander seeds (optional but delicious)
- 5 ounces (145 g) thinly sliced smoked salmon
- Handful fresh dill
- half fresh lemon, for garnish
- Rinse asparagus spears in cool water. Snap off the woody ends at their natural breaking point (Here’s a video in case you have no idea what I am talking about).
- Lay the asparagus in a single layer in a heatproof dish (or in a clean, empty sink with the drain plug inserted). Leave a gap in the centre of the dish or sink so you have room to add boiling water without having to pour it directly onto any of the spears.
- Pour a kettle full of boiling water into the gap between the asparagus spears, enough to cover them by at least a half-inch (1.25 cm).
- Let the asparagus sit and cook gently as the water cools.
- After 10 – 15 minutes, test the asparagus for doneness by poking the tip of a sharp knife into a stem; it should be just tender.
- Remove the asparagus from the warm water and run it under very cold water to stop the cooking process. Place the spears on a clean towel and dry them gently.
- Roll up the towel with the asparagus in it and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the rolls.
- When ready to assemble, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and ground coriander. Stir to blend well.
- Cut the smoked salmon into 16 pieces approximately 1 inch by 2.5 inches (2.5 cm x 6.25 cm) each.
- To assemble, cut a spear in half cross-wise, so you have two equal pieces.
- Lay the two pieces side by side and put a teaspoon-sized dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the middle.
- Lay a sprig of dill on top of the cream cheese.
- Wrap one piece of the cut smoked salmon around the cream cheese-covered portion of a pair of asparagus pieces, folding the ends to the underside. Press gently so the salmon adheres to the cream cheese.
- Lay the first bundle on a serving platter and repeat with remaining spears.
- Cover the platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving.
- Immediately before serving, halve the zested lemon and squeeze the juice of one half over the rolls.
Makes 16 rolls.