In his first solo cookbook, “Home,” local food superstar Bryan Voltaggio highlights the Mid-Atlantic cuisine of his youth, turning his creative precision to classic dishes using regional ingredients. This asparagus-and-barley dish, which appears in the book and is also on the menu at Aggio, Voltaggio’s Italian restaurant in Power Plant Live!, welcomes spring in Maryland with the fresh flavors of white and green asparagus.
The dish mixes the asparagus with hearty barley and thin slices of sorrel. Topped with salty and smoky pecorino, Voltaggio’s take on a simple vegetable-and-grain dish is layered and wonderful.
“Home” is available for purchase starting April 4.
Asparagus and Barley Yields 6-8 servings
4 ounces pecorino cheese 1 ¼ cups pearled barley 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1 bunch green asparagus 1 bunch white asparagus 1 cup buttermilk ¼ cup sorrel, thinly sliced, plus several leaves to garnish the platter 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Special equipment: Stovetop smoker Wood chips
1. Place wood chips in the bottom pan of a stovetop smoker and set over medium-high heat. When the wood begins to smolder and smoke, turn off the heat, put the base tray in place and put the cheese in the smoker. Put on the lid and smoke the cheese for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the cheese and turn the heat on under the smoker to rekindle the wood. (You don’t want the cheese to melt in the smoker.) When it is smoking again, turn off the heat and add the cheese. Leave the cheese in the smoker for 10 minutes.
3. Remove the cheese again, and turn the heat on under the smoker to rekindle the wood. When it is smoking, turn off the heat and add the cheese. Leave the cheese in the smoker for 10 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes. Remove the cheese and chill it.
4. Put the barley in a bowl, and cover it with 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water. Cover the container and let it hydrate overnight.
5. Rinse the hydrated barley in cold water, drain and put it into a medium pot. Cover the barley with 1 inch of cold water, add ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and set the pot over medium-high heat.
6. When the barley comes to a boil, remove from the heat and drain in a colander.
7. Put the barley into a large bowl and add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the smoked paprika. Stir everything together to coat the grains and cool the mixture down.
8. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat.
9. Prepare an ice bath.
10. Remove the small triangular leaves from the stalks of the green asparagus. Sometimes there is a bit of dirt and grit hiding behind them.
11. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 2 minutes and then transfer to the ice bath.
12. Set a fresh pot of salted water over high heat and, when it comes to a boil, repeat with the white asparagus.
13. Cut the asparagus stems into ¼-inch rounds, leaving the tips 2 inches long.
14. In a bowl, mix the barley with the buttermilk and the asparagus rounds, sliced sorrel and lemon juice.
15. Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat and put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan.
16. When the oil shimmers, add the white asparagus tips and saute for 1 minute. Turn the tips in the pan and saute for 1 minute more. Transfer the white asparagus tips to a plate to keep warm.
17. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and then add the green asparagus tips. Saute them for 1 minute, flip them over, and saute for 1 minute more. Transfer them from the pan to the plate with the white asparagus tips.
18. Put the barley mixture onto a large platter. Top with the warm asparagus tips, shave the smoked pecorino on top, and garnish with sorrel leaves.