Set the beets aside, please…
Just about the time you can’t face cooking another root vegetable, the beautiful green spears of asparagus start peeking out of the newly warmed soil. On a warm day, you can almost watch them grow.
It’s just about time! The intense flavor of this fresh vegetable is vastly superior to anything trucked in from other parts of the country (or world), but we know we will only have them for a short time, so we eat our fill while we can. I resist buying anything but local because I know I will be disappointed, and that first bite of the season is a marvelous reward for my patience!
Don’t mess with it much
You don’t have to do much to asparagus, it delights in simplicity. Choose firm spears with tightly closed heads and a bright, even color. No shriveled stalks or loose tops please. They should look good enough to eat raw, and probably are! Just chop them up and add to a salad.
It does not matter if your spears are large or pencil thin, it’s all delicious. The cooking is all about the timing according to size; overcooked and they will become grey and slimy, so test as you go. For me, they are best when the spears just start to get tender, still crisp and not stringy, but cook them to your own preference.
It is almost all edible
Peel or cut off only the toughest ends (save for stock if you like) and roast, or grill them quickly to bring out the most flavor. Simple is best – a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a watchful eye. Or steam and quickly plunge in ice water to set the beautiful color and stop the cooking. Make a large batch to save time in the kitchen tomorrow.
Add these tasty “planned leftovers” to omelets, frittatas, salads, soups, sandwiches, or just toss with vinaigrette and serve as a side.
Leftover grilled asparagus easily finds a home in a special looking tart, below, that is easy to make using prepared puff pastry and whatever favorite melting cheese you prefer.
Aways an alternative
Does your family love asparagus with traditional Hollandaise sauce? If you are pressed for time on a weeknight, substitute mayonnaise you have thinned with a little lemon juice, mixed with some lemon zest and lots of black pepper. I doubt anyone will complain.
One of my favorite brunch starters is simple grilled asparagus placed on a dish with a pot of lemon mayonnaise and a little pile of salt. It is pretty to behold, and quite tasty. A
few shavings of fresh spring radish add color and a peppery pop. This can be served individually, or made into a beautiful salad for a buffet.
Panini or grill pan
If it is too cold outside to fire up the grill, use your panini maker or grill pan! This is always a hit with our guests because people love to eat with their fingers. In place of mayonnaise, you can use softened butter blended with a few herbs, such as the first chives from the garden, which are now making their appearance as well.
One of my favorite recipes is the easiest – a “creamed” soup with nothing but roasted asparagus and water! This hearty soup contains no dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, or meat, and not much fat as well! It satisfies just about every dietary requirement your family can throw at you.
Let’s not forget the ramps…