Parmesan cheese and black pepper aren’t just a match made in heaven. They’re also versatile to boot. Take this asparagus, peas and cucumber “cacio e pepe”—from Jess Damuck’s Salad Freak—as proof that the flavor combination makes everything it touches a little tastier.
“I won’t try to say this is anything like eating pasta cacio e pepe,” she explains, “or that it will satisfy your craving for it—because it isn’t, and it won’t. But there is something ethereal about this salad that really speaks to the season. Shaved vegetables are so elegant and fresh. You could also add some raw zucchini noodles in place of cucumber if you wanted to, serve it on top of thin, crispy or grilled chicken cutlets, or you could pile it on top of baked pizza crust (I might add a little burrata if I was doing that).”
Recipe excerpt from the new book Salad Freak: Recipes to Feed a Healthy Obsession by Jess Damuck, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 by Jess Damuck. Photography by Linda Pugliese.
Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (145g) shelled fresh (or frozen) English peas
2 Persian cucumbers, or 1 English cucumber
1 pound (455g) asparagus
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 handful arugula
Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, to serve
1. Prep the vegetables: Bring a small pot of water to a boil; salt it heavily. Prepare an ice bath with a fine-mesh sieve set over it to contain the peas. Add the peas to the boiling water and boil until crisp-tender and bright green. Strain and transfer to the ice bath.
2. Trim the ends off the cucumbers and shave into long ribbons using a Y-peeler. Add them to the ice bath to crisp up.
3. Preheat the broiler with the rack about 4 inches from the heating element.
4. Using a Y-peeler, peel the asparagus from root end to tip. When you get down to where you can’t peel anymore, trim off the ends and discard; transfer the peelings to a rimmed baking sheet.
5. Drizzle the asparagus with a bit of oil and season with salt and lots of black pepper. Toss well to coat. Broil until just charred, about 4 minutes.
6. Make the lemon-garlic vinaigrette: In a large bowl, combine the juice of ½ a lemon and about ¼ cup (60ml) oil; grate the garlic clove into the mixture.
7. Drain and pat dry the cucumbers and add them to the bowl with the dressing, along with the arugula, asparagus and peas. Transfer to serving plates or a platter. Grate a fluffy cloud of Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses over the top and stir everything together before taking your first bite.