This is, hands down, my favorite asparagus recipe.  I love the tender stalks after they’ve been peeled and blanched, and the crunchy hazelnut dressing adds a nice contrast in texture.  Serve this dish as a side at brunch, lunch or dinner.  It’s great when served with roasted or grilled meat.  You can make the asparagus a few hours ahead, along with the vinaigrette – just store them separately until ready to serve.

Asparagus with Hazelnut Dressing

1 medium shallot, minced

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

½ tsp. agave nectar or honey

1/3 C. olive oil

½ C. skinned hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and stalks peeled

1.            Fill a bowl with ice and cold water to make a water bath.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  While waiting for water to boil, trim asparagus spears to where they snap when bent.  Place trimmed asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute, or until bright green and slightly tender.  Immediately plunge asparagus into water bath to stop cooking.  Once cooled, remove asparagus and refrigerate until ready to use.

2.            In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar, mustard, agave and oil.  Stir in hazelnuts.  Drizzle dressing over asparagus.  Serve at room temperature.