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When Chef Marc Vidal was looking for a way to create one of his favorite dishes from his native Barcelona -- grilled spring onions in a Romesco sauce -- he subbed in the ever-versatile asparagus.

"Here it's very difficult to get spring onions," said Vidal, executive chef for tapas bar Boqueria(53 W. 19th St., 212-255-4160; 171 Spring St., 212-343-4255, boquerianyc.com). "But you can get really good asparagus."

Vidal serves the dish, Esparragos y Romesco, as a special when the vegetable is available at the market. And being that asparagus is currently in season, it's the perfect time to try the tasty appetizer or side yourself, which can be paired with grilled fish for a heart-healthy meal.

Vidal recommends making the hazelnut-, tomato- and nyora pepper-based Romesco sauce in advance, so it can be added to the asparagus once it's off the grill.

"Make sure the sauce has a good amount of acidity so it goes well with the vegetable," said Vidal.

The chef also advises to not overcook the asparagus.

"Two minutes is more than enough," said Vidal. "It should be crunchy."

Esparragos y Romesco

Grilled green asparagus with Romesco sauce
 
Ingredients
18 pieces green asparagus (2 oz.)
1 oz. Romesco sauce (see recipe)
 
Directions
Season asparagus with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Sear until charred and cooked through, about two minutes.
Heat up the Romesco in a large saute pan, transfer asparagus to saute pan and coat evenly.
Serve with shaved raw asparagus salad as a garnish.
 
Romesco recipe
Makes 1 quarter
 
Ingredients
4 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 whole head of garlic
3/4 cup hazelnut
1/8 loaf stirato bread
1 2/3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/3 cup loose parsley leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup nyora pepper puree (see recipe)
 
Directions
De-stem the tomatoes and cut an “x” on the top. Line a sheet pan with foil and place tomatoes on top with 4 garlic heads. Add olive oil and put in oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees. When done, peel the charred tomato skins.
Deep-fry the hazelnuts until golden brown.
Deep-fry the stirato bread until crispy.
Blend all ingredients completely until smooth.
Add salt to taste.
Freeze extra for future use.
 
Nyora pepper puree recipe
Yields 1 cup
 
Ingredients
1/2 pack nyora peppers (160 grams)
 
Directions
Cut peppers in half. Soak overnight in warm water, covered with plastic wrap.
Drain peppers from water and remove the seeds and stems.
Blend peppers.
Pass through a very fine tamis/sieve.
Freeze extra for future use.