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IMG_3709Of all the spring vegetables, asparagus is one of the easiest to prepare…simply grilled, oven roasted or shredded raw as a salad, it needs little more than salt and lemon to qualify as a side dish. But if you’re looking to dress up those slender stalks in a more elegant way, try this: Cold Poached Asparagus with Skinny Basil Mayonnaise.

When my children were little and I was housebound, I threw some pretty elaborate dinner parties (it was the only way I could make sure I had decent adult conversation and good wine once a week), and a starter salad of asparagus with basil aioli  (which is simply homemade mayonnaise) was always in my spring rotation.

IMG_7784With just 40 calories a cup and loaded with folic acid, antioxidants and tummy filling fiber, asparagus is one of nature’s great gifts to dieters.  But homemade mayo, which is made mostly of oil and egg yolks, is not.

And once I realized my otherwise innocent asparagus dressed with 3 tablespoons of The Barefoot Contessa’s Basil Mayo had more than 300 calories–as a starter–I all but abandoned the dish.

IMG_3668Now, after skinny-fying and simplifying that sauce, it’s not only easier, has a shorter list of ingredients and a longer shelf life, instead of 80 calories a tablespoon, it has just 8!

So whether you’re throwing a smashing dinner party or just want a flavorful dressing to use on loads of other dishes, spring forward with this simple sauce….which will not only leave you satisfied, but also a little skinnier!


IMG_36891 lb fresh asparagus spears, trimmed of tough ends

1 c roughly chopped basil

1/2 c buttermilk

1/4 c low Hellman’s Low Fat Mayonnaise (or Reduced Fat Vegenaise)

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (2-3 T juice)

IMG_36581 T Dijon Mustard

1 t garlic, sliced

mixed greens to fill out each plate

chopped grape tomatoes, optional

slivers of Parmesan, optional

fat free croutons, optional

IMG_3676Place asparagus in a frying pan filled with cold water and 1 teaspoon of salt and set over high heat. Once it begins to bubble, cook just 1 minute more for thin stalks, 2 to 3 minutes more for thick stalks. Drain out the water and  immediately put a few handfuls of ice cubes in the pan, swirling to quickly cool the asparagus so it will retain its bright green color.

IMG_3678Remove the asparagus to a clean kitchen towel or cloth dinner napkin to soak up the moisture, roll the spears up in the towel and place in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready to use.  (If prepping for an evening party, these can be done in the morning and kept chilled all day.)

To make the Basil Mayo, you can whirl all the ingredients in a IMG_3660small food processor.

IMG_3668But  to save a clean up step, I combine all in a mason jar I can store the leftover dressing in and use an immersion blender to puree.  Just make sure you puree half of the basil into the liquid before adding the rest or the immersion blender can clog.


Fill each salad plate with any soft greens, sprinkle just a few drops of olive oil and a little salt on them and toss lightly with your hands.  Top with the chilled asparagus, the basil mayo and finely chopped grape tomatoes.

IMG_3709If you like, you can also add a few ribbons of Parmesan (just use your potato peeler and cut from the corners of the cheese for skinny strips.)  Or you could add a a bit of grated hard boiled egg (only the whites if you’re really serious about calories) or a few  fat-free croutons.  With the flavorful basil mayo now just 8 calories a tablespoon, you have wiggle room!


IMG_3713Skinny Basil Mayo is fantastic on grilled or pan seared salmon, great served with crudite or on an egg white omelet.  I’ve even served it on melba toast rounds with a little smoked salmon and caviar as an appetizer. Trust me, once this dressing is in your fridge, you’ll find lots of ways to use it!


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
This entry was posted in Fit For Kids, Skinny Salads, Skinny Sides, Skinny Snacks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Michelle says:

    I’m going to try this, this looks delish! I already use a little mayo on my salmon but the skinny basil version of mayo seems like a great healthy alternative.

  2. Denise says:

    Made this yesterday…it’s delicious. Who knew? If only I knew at 30 what I know now…you are amazing. Love the photos too…Thank you.

  3. Lisa – I love asparagus! It is definitely a win-win for health conscious dieters who focus on nutrient value instead of caloric value.

    • Lisa McRee says:

      So glad you think so! I’m sort of crazy about this sauce now…Using it on lots of veggie dishes that need a little “ooomph” while not adding calories! Kids are eating it with carrots and broccoli that I quick blanch (just 30 seconds) and I’m loving it in veggie wraps or on Wasa bread with a little salmon… xolmc

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