The weather is starting to warm up and the season for outdoor entertaining has begun. Grilling is a popular way to cook main courses such as chicken, burgers or steaks but you can make appetizers on the grill as well. These asparagus spears wrapped in goat cheese and prosciutto make an elegant starter that will impress your guests. There are a number of steps but they are very straightforward. The wrapped asparagus spears can be prepared in advance and only need a couple of minutes on the BBQ.
Use the fattest asparagus spears you can find – the pencil-thin ones won’t work for this dish. Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham that is available in many supermarkets. Ask at the deli counter and make sure they slice it very thinly. You can substitute Spanish serrano or other cured hams. For the cheese, you can use a soft goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone. Each one has a slightly different flavour but all will be delicious. The asparagus spears can also be cooked on an indoor grill if you don’t have access to an outdoor BBQ.
Helpful tip: if you want to zest a lemon for garnish, be sure to zest it before cutting the lemon open to juice it. To get more juice from your lemon, roll it on the counter, pressing down gently on the lemon as you roll. This helps break down the inside a bit so it’s easier to extract the juice.
Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto
Makes 10 asparagus spears
- 10 fat asparagus spears
- 10 slices cured ham such as prosciutto or serrano, sliced very thinly
- Lemon zest for garnish (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons (about 2-1/2 oz) soft cheese such as goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone – at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- A dash of salt and pepper
- 1 Tablespooon fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoon neutral oil such as canola or safflower
- 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
To prepare asparagus:
- Trim any woody ends and discard. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. In a large saucepan, add enough water to just cover asparagus and bring to a boil. Cook asparagus for about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, until it is just tender.
- Drain and plunge immediately into the ice water to halt cooking. Let asparagus cool completely, drain and pat dry.
To make herbed cheese:
- Spoon room-temperature goat, cream cheese or mascarpone cheese into a small bowl. Add chive, thyme, lemon juice salt and pepper. Use a fork to mix herbs into cheese until thoroughly combined. Cheese can be made in advance and refrigerated until use. Bring back to room temperature before using.
To prepare lemon oil:
- In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and mustard until combined.
Putting it all together:
- Lay out prosciutto slices in a single layer. Scoop a small amount of herbed cheese (about 3/4 teaspoon) and spread it in a thin layer on a prosciutto slice as though buttering a piece of bread. Repeat for all slices.
- Wrap each slice of prosciutto around an asparagus spear, starting at the bottom of the spear. Make sure the cheese side is against the asparagus – it will act like ‘glue’ to help the prosciutto stick. Appetizers may be prepared to this point and refrigerated until ready to use.
- Prepare grill or light barbeque. Brush each wrapped asparagus spear with the lemon-oil and grill until the prosciutto begins to get crispy around the edges, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and grill for another 2 minutes.
- Arrange on a platter and garnish with lemon zest if desired. They are meant to be eaten as finger food but they can be plated and eaten with a fork if you’d prefer.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!