Note: From “Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook,” by Alex Guarnaschelli.
• 1 tbsp. honey
• 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
• 3 tbsp. sesame oil
• 2 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
• Kosher salt
• 1 lb. asparagus (preferably pencil-thin), ends trimmed, cut into 2-in. pieces
• 1/4 c. sesame seeds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
To make the dressing: In small pan, heat honey over medium heat until it froths and turns golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour vinegar over it. Return to heat and simmer to reduce for an additional minute.
In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Season with a pinch of salt. Whisk in honey mixture.
To cook the asparagus: First prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and adding some cold water. Set a colander squarely inside the ice bath. The colander will keep you from having to pick ice out of the asparagus later.
Add salt to the boiling water until it tastes like seawater. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green but still crunchy, 1 minute for thin spears and 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for medium ones. Use a slotted spoon to remove asparagus from the water and transfer them to the colander inside the ice bath. Move them around gently to accelerate the cooling process. Vegetables take longer than you think to cool, so allow them to sit for a few minutes in the ice water. Hold a piece of asparagus in your hand for a few seconds to assure that it’s really cool (even in the center).
Lift up the colander to drain the asparagus and then spread them out on a kitchen towel. If the asparagus are still wet, pat them dry thoroughly with another kitchen towel, or even allow them to air-dry and chill in the refrigerator before adding the dressing.
To finish the salad: Toss the asparagus, sesame seeds and dressing together and refrigerate for an hour or until ready to serve.