grilled asparagus + burrata salad with crispy pancetta + basil oil

The past six weeks – perhaps unsurprisingly to those of you who’ve ever experienced those hectic first days with a little person – have blasted by in an absolute blur. There have been hundreds (no, seriously) of dirty diapers changed, dozens of off-key lullabies warbled, and far too many groggy middle of the night feeding sessions held to count.

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In my previous not-a-mom-yet life, whenever some of my favorite blogger’s online presences would all but disappear when their precious new little bundles arrived into this world, I have to admit – and very sheepishly, I might add – that I met their scarceness with a bit of a scoff.

IMG_4842Surely they could find just a few spare minutes to dash off a post, right? I mean how hard could it be? Can’t they just sleep when the baby sleeps? Or just type up a post with the baby on their lap?

(Cue sinister canned laughter and me eating every.single.word along those lines that I have ever uttered…ever.)

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As it turns out, getting “shit done” whilst trying to raise a brand-spankin-new human can be damn near impossible; there have seriously been some days over the past six weeks when conquering a load of laundry and finding a moment to remember to feed the poor dogs dinner (let alone myself) has felt like a major victory. Newborns are on a fairly predictable “eat, sleep, poop, repeat” cycle, and from an outsider’s perspective I’ve always thought that it seems like you’d be able to manage that predictability quite effortlessly. Completely false. It’s been absolutely astonishing to me how the days have just dissolved out from between my slippery fingers and dribbled down into some kind of black hole oblivion – one that I had no idea even existed before little Beatrix was a member of our family.

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And whoever came up with the “sage advice” of sleeping along with the baby obviously did not care if lasagna crusted dishes piled higher than Pisa or a new wild and aggressive breed of dust bunny began colonizing the hallways (umm…I do).

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February 5th, when our sweet Bea burst onto the scene, feels all at once like yesterday and a lifetime ago to me — both of which are, of course somewhat metaphorically, true. They say the days are long but the years are short, and though I’ve barely had even a small taste of how fast a year with a newborn baby can go by, I’m already getting weepy and nostalgic for the earliest days as our darling little girl has literally grown up and out of her tiniest first outfits right before our eyes. And though I promise I’m not going to turn into that mom who documents and photographs every single thing with a tweet, Instagram post, and full on press release, I do have a new appreciation for tuning out the rest of the world and instead into my new little reality to soak up each wonderful, hysterical, tender, sublime, and terrifying moment of it all.

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Our meals these days have been simple; the kind that require minimal dishes, pots, and pans, and that are easy to eat with one hand (because the other will inevitably be tied up doing some sort of baby soothing). Bonus points if said meals taste equally amazing at room temperature as they do straight off the grill, like this asparagus salad, because as I am also finding out babies have an uncanny ability of getting all worked up just as you sit down to a piping hot meal. I came up with the idea for this asparagus salad while dreaming of summer tomatoes and Caprese salads — and I dare say I like it almost as much (and maybe even more!) than it’s inspiration. Asparagus is cropping up all over the markets these days here in Northern Cali, and my springtime iteration of a ‘Caprese’ was simple but fresh; I grilled up skinny spears of asparagus and topped them with crispy cubes of golden brown pancetta and creamy dollops of burrata, then drizzled the whole lot with a bright and savory basil flecked olive oil and a generous dusting of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

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The resulting dish was a salad that was hearty enough to function as an early supper, and one that was a welcome departure from all of the winter-hearty frozen meals that I’d so diligently stockpiled in the weeks leading up to Bea’s arrival. We gobbled this up while sitting outside in the garden with our newest addition, soaking up all of the lovely new daylight that’s been bestowed upon us with the time change…and while wearing our last clean pairs of pajama pants, because…well…there’s a mountain of laundry that needs to be tended to. #truth.

grilled asparagus + burrata salad with crispy pancetta + basil oil
 
Prep time
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Savory stalks of grilled asparagus mingle with creamy burrata cheese, crisped up cubes of pancetta, and a drizzle of basil oil for the perfect let yet indulgent summer salad.
Author:
Serves: 4 side dish servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 4 oz pancetta, cut into small ⅛" cubes
  • 1 small ball of burrata cheese (4-6oz)
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves (10-12 large leaves)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic (or champagne) vinegar plus an additional tsp if needed
Method
  1. First, crisp up your pancetta. In a medium sized skillet set over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until the fat has rendered and the cubes are golden brown and crisped. Remove the pancetta using a slotted spoon and keep to the side till you are ready to plate.
  2. In a small food processor, blitz the fresh basil leaves with the olive oil until you have a thick slurry. Add in 1 Tbsp of the vinegar and a good pinch of salt, and blitz again; you want the final product to be spoonable, and if it is still too thick add another tsp of the vinegar and mix again. Taste and adjust salt if needed (but remember the pancetta and asparagus will be salty so don't overdo it here).
  3. Heat a grill over medium high heat (if you don't have a grill, you can simply roast the asparagus in the oven at 475F till it's tinged golden and tender, 5-8 minutes). Drizzle the asparagus spears with olive oil and season with plenty of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Grill the asparagus until it has nice grill/char marks and is just cooked through and tender but still has a nice bite to it. 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Arrange your asparagus on a platter, scatter the crisp pancetta cubes in an even row across the asparagus, and then break the burrata into 4 even pieces and place it over the top. Drizzle the entire salad with the basil oil and season the dish with a few final grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately or enjoy at room temperature up to an hour later.

 

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