I know now, having watched Anthony Bourdain’s recent episode on Provence, France, that aioli should not, under any circumstances, be called mayonnaise. Aioli is thick, garlicky and creamy, and takes patience to make. The perfect aioli is a product of the ideal environment in which it comes together. The sun, the breeze, the love of the cook holding the mortar and pestle, are all factors. So while the accompanying sauce is called aioli, it’s not of the French variety. This aioli, which sounds lovely to say, is all-American (albeit homemade), basil mayonnaise. And it’s delicious.
With spring officially here (actually, it feels more like summer here in California), freshness and simplicity rule the season. Shrimp cakes are a nice alternative to their crab counterparts, and the fresh basil to dip each bite into was more impressive than I thought it would be.
And then there’s the asparagus. It’s a very strong possibility that I’ll find a bunch in my vegetable box from now until the end of May. If you’re ever at a loss for how to prepare them, there’s no easier way than shaving them raw and tossing everything with a creamy lemon and Parmesan dressing.
Makes 5-6 2 to 3 inch shrimp cakes.
You’ll have leftover aioli, perfect for sandwiches, or mixing in with tuna.
20 shrimp, deveined and tails removed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons basil mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until pink and cooked through. Cool slightly, then chop the shrimp and place it in a medium bowl.
In the same bowl as the shrimp, add Panko, parsley, salt, pepper, mayonnaise and the egg. Stir to combine. If the mixture is too wet, add a few more breadcrumbs.
In the same pan that you used to cook the shrimp, add the remaining olive oil and set the stove to medium-high heat. Form the cakes gently with your hands, and press them down slightly to flatten. You should have enough of the mixture for about 5 to 6 shrimp cakes. Cook the cakes in batches of 2 or 3 at a time, for about 5 minutes, until sufficiently browned, turning halfway through.
To serve, smear a line of basil mayonnaise on each plate, then top with two shrimp cakes and sprinkle with any extra parsley, along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
To make, follow the same directions for Basic Mayonnaise, halving the recipe if you wish. After the ingredients have emulsified, add a generous handful of torn basil leaves and pulse to combine. That’s it!
RAW ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH LEMON PARMESAN DRESSING
This is an easy salad that makes the best of spring produce. The parmesan and lemon dressing is creamy and flavorful.
It’s so easy you don’t need a recipe! In a medium bowl, whisk the juice of half a lemon, some salt and pepper and at least 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan cheese (you can always add more) until combined. Whisk in some olive oil until lightly emulsified.
Next, take a bunch of asparagus and discard the tough ends. Using a vegetable peeler, peel each spear into long ribbons and place into the bowl with the dressing. Toss gently with your hands to combine and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve immediately.