Picada is one of Spain’s great sauces. It can be creamy like tahini or coarse and crumbly, like our version here. We use hazelnuts, but substitute almonds if you prefer. For the asparagus spears, I recommend the French technique of peeling the bottom one-third in order to utilize the whole vegetable. (If you prefer to cut off the bottoms, be sure to save them for vegetable stock.) Keep in mind that asparagus does a significant amount of carryover cooking once removed from the heat, so always pull it out while it’s still bright green to account for that extra “cooking.”
|1/4 cup stale bread cubes||1 teaspoon salt|
|1/4 cup shelled, skinned unsalted hazelnuts||1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper|
|3 tablespoons olive oil||1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme|
|2 teaspoons minced garlic||2 bunches asparagus, bottom one-third trimmed with a peeler to achieve uniform thickness (about 2 pounds)|
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Toss the bread cubes and hazelnuts in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Transfer the mixture to a sheet pan and roast until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the thyme. Cool slightly before transferring to a food processor. Pulse into a crumble.
Meanwhile, toss the asparagus in a large bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan and roast until bright green and lightly crinkled, about 4 minutes for pencil-thin asparagus or up to 10 minutes for jumbo spears.
Serve the asparagus immediately with the picada sprinkled on top.
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