Spring is a season of simplicity. A time when life drives itself forward with a single-minded force. Buds spring open, flowers shoot from the earth, and the air practically smells green.
That energy is inescapable. It shows up on the shelves of our shop — the Tempier drop is just around the corner, piquette is chilling in the fridge alongside crunchy pét-nats — and in our Burlington, Vermont wine bar. There, both the wine list and menu show off the sweet ease of spring.
One of the most popular items on our menu right now is this asparagus dish. It’s everything we want from a spring plate: deliciousness that feels unrehearsed, no matter how many hours went into it.
Whether or not you can make it into the wine bar, we want you to experience it. So our chef, Micah Tavelli, and our wine bar director, Emmi Kern, released this recipe and wine pairings.
Give it a try. We think it will change your life.
“Our overarching goal is to represent farmers on the wine side of things, and that’s exactly how we cook back here. We’re here to represent the hard work that the farmers that we’re sourcing from do for us.”
Pomykala Farm in Grand Isle is the best expression of asparagus that I’ve ever had. I’ve been out to the farm and harvested asparagus with them, and just chopping the asparagus and eating it right out of the ground is unbelievably crazy. It made me realize that not enough people are eating asparagus raw. So I always try to do an uncooked version of asparagus every spring, because its just something that is delicious and not done enough.”
Myself, Jackson, Ryan and Avery have a text message thread where we chat about recipes and dishes and what we’re excited about, and Avery was really excited about tonnato, and doing it with something fresh like asparagus. We ran with it and it ended up being really, really delicious.”
The dish is Asparagus with Tonnato, which is an Italian tuna aioli. We take confit tuna, and then add it into our aioli base, and build an aioli with that. We put that down on the plate first, then chop asparagus into bite-sized pieces. They get dressed with a little bit of the Nunez olive oil, salt and some lemon juice. That goes on top of the tonnato, and then we top with macadamia nuts that we toasted in a little olive oil and salt, and then crushed up. And then we finish the dish with a scallop powder. We just take the muscle from the scallop, cure it on salt, black pepper and juniper for about a week, and then dehydrate them and blitz it up until it's a nice fine powder. It adds a nice umami element to the dish."
Emmi’s Wine Pairings
Currently, Emmi has the Clos Canarelli rosé by the glass on the wine bar list. “That would be fire” with the asparagus, she says. She also suggests another by-the-glass wine on this season’s menu, the Friulano from Duline.
Director of Education Brittany Galbraith recommends adding a plate of prosciutto if you swing for the Friulano pairing.
(For 3- 4 people)
1 bunch (about 15 stalks) asparagus
3 tbsp macadamia nuts
2 tbsp olive oil
Scallop powder or bonito flakes
For the Tonnato*:
½ lb albacore tuna or 2 cans of canned tuna in olive oil
2 egg yolks
½ tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic
2 tsp lemon juice, divided
3 cups canola and olive oil blended**
*Makes one quart. You’ll have leftovers, which you can use on toasts, pastas, sandwiches, and so much more.
First, make the tonnato.
If you are going to confit the tuna, heat your oven to 325 F. Place the tuna and one cup of olive oil in a baking dish and cook for about 35-45 minutes. Once cooled, use the leftover oil in your aioli.
Alternatively, you can use two cans of tuna in olive oil instead.
Build the aioli base by mixing the egg yolks, dijon, tuna, a pinch of salt, and 1 tsp lemon juice in a medium bowl. Slowly add the remaining two cups of oil, plus the reserved one cup of confit oil, while whisking, to make sure it's not breaking. (If you’re using canned, use the entire three cups of oil.) You can add a little bit of ice water if it starts to get too thick.
Next, lightly toast the macadamia nuts in a tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt on the stovetop. Transfer to a 350-degree oven to finish toasting for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool, and then crush the nuts.
Chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a tsp of lemon juice, as well as a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to dress all of the asparagus.
To serve, spread 2-3 tbsp of the tonnato on each plate. Then top with the dressed asparagus. Add about 1 tbsp of the toasted nuts, and finally, finish with a pinch of bonito flakes.