Al fresco dining with asparagus and parmesan nests

Al fresco means eating out in the fresh air, in the garden, in a patio or even on a pavement, in other words, anywhere without a roof.  Popular in the Mediterranean, eating al fresco happens candidly as soon as the weather becomes mild. Just as they shed layers of clothes, people put aside the formality of dining rooms and go out to eat.

I personally think that al fresco should implies a meal put together with no fuss and in no time. This light summer salad can be prepared in matter of minutes. To save time, you can use tinned cannellini or simply do as I do: cook lots of cannellini in advance and freeze them in little bags. Serve this salad with good quality crusty bread, tapenade and a chilled glass of white wine.

Asparagus Puree and Parmesan nests

8 tablespoons grated parmesan
10 large green asparagus
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon juiced
100 g cannellini beans, cooked
½ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon marjoram

Serves 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

  1. On a baking paper draw 4 circles 10 cm diameter each. Place two tablespoon of grated parmesan in the centre of each of the rounds and gently flatten to fill the circle.
  2. Place the parmesan rounds under a very hot grill for 2 minutes until it starts to burn and just begin to brown on the sides.
  3. Remove from the oven and immediately place each of the rounds in a small 8 cm ramekin to give the melted cheese a nest shape. This should be done immediately as the cheese is still hot and maleable. shape the parmesan nests. Leave to cool.
  4. Dress cannellini beans with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. 
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Boil asparagus for 3 minutes until just tender. Reserve the heads.
  7. Place the rest of the asparagus stalks in a food processor together with salt, pepper, marjoram and olive oil and mash to a coarse consistency.
  8. Fill each of the nests with a spoonful of asparagus puree.
  9. Serve with the dressed cannellini on a bed of salad leaves.
  10. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle olive oil. 
  11. Garnish fresh marjoram.

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