They’re here, and what a glorious season it is in the north!
That first bite of fresh local asparagus is like a gift from the heavens. There are certain vegetables I only eat when they are in season. I’ve learned disappointment is likely to follow if I’m tempted to buy corn on the cob or blueberries in the middle of winter. Asparagus is one of them. We might only have these delightful sprouts for a month, but, oh what a month it is! And just in time for my 500th post! Amazing.
So many possibilities
We’ll eat these beautiful spears raw right from the patch, grill them, broil them, boil them, pop them in stir-fries, and turn them into soup. They might appear in a quiche at a May lunch outdoors. Or, folded into a delightful omelette on the Sunday brunch menu. Vegan tart perhaps, or served as the topping on a salad.
Let treat them lightly
All that will happen as the season progresses, but the very first bunch is simply served – quickly steamed with just a touch of salt or a little dip of homemade mayonnaise. Nothing better!
Homemade vs. store bought
Homemade mayonnaise is so much more delicious than the jarred, even my favorite Hellman’s. It’s also healthier, having less saturated fat per serving (just over a gram per tablespoon) and absolutely no preservatives or additives. Of course, it only keeps for three days, so I plan its use carefully!
Not as hard as you think
Homemade mayonnaise! Does that sound daunting? It is really one of the simplest things to make, whether or not you have a food processor, you just have to follow a couple rules. First of all, everything should be at room temperature. Secondly, the drizzling of the oil into the mayonnaise must be done very, very slowly. Add another very. But even so, it doesn’t take that long to make, and the results are worth it.
Neutral please, not your best olive oil
Another thing to remember is that you need a neutral oil: organic canola or grapeseed work well here. This is not the place for your beautiful fruity olive oil. Learn from my foolishness. My first attempt at mayonnaise making, I used a lovely imported extra-virgin olive oil, not a cheap ingredient, and the result was quite harsh.
Yes, there are raw eggs used
I have used local organic eggs for this, raw. I know and trust my local farms, and the incidence of contaminated eggs is quite low, like one in tens of thousands. However, if you have any concerns about using raw eggs, of if you are pregnant or immune compromised, please use pasteurized eggs, or pasteurize them yourself, it is not hard, and instructions can be found on-line here and other places. Also, never use a cracked egg.
Spring Asparagus with Homemade Chive Mayonnaise
- 1 bunch freshly picked asparagus, lightly steamed
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 rounded tsp. French mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper*
- 1 ¼ or slightly more, cups of neutral oil
- 2 tbsp. freshly snipped chives, minced
- Coarse salt and lemon slices to garnish
Steam the asparagus. If the spears are really thick, break them off at their natural spot when bent. If they are very slender, just trim the ends a bit. They will cook quickly, so keep your eye on them. Check at two minutes if thin, and test along the way. If over cooked, they will become pale, slimy, and stringy – not the stuff that spring dreams are made of.
In a food processor, or using a stick blender in a narrow container, whirl the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, and a couple of tablespoons of the oil for about 20 seconds, until well blended. Very slowly drizzle the first quarter cup of oil by little drops, very gradually increasing. As the mayonnaise thickens, you can pour in a little faster. Many food processors have a little hole in the insert to the feeding tube, and after the first quarter of a cup, it dispenses the oil just right. The mayonnaise will start to thicken all at once, completely changing texture and sound.
Once thick, adjust with a little water if it needs thinning. For the chive mayo, turn out what you need for the meal into a small bowl and mix in as many chives as you like. Thin the sauce to desired consistency using a bit more lemon juice or water. Here, I wanted it kind of dipping thick, but another time, I might have liked to pour it.
Sometimes I do this whole process by hand. Use a large bowl and a big whisk, and proceed as above. It takes a bit more time, but is actually quite satisfying a task, and you get to use that giant balloon whisk!
*I use freshly ground black pepper and ignore the little black flecks. Often white pepper is used, but I don’t happen to like the flavor of it, so black it is for me!
Additions, let your imagination run wild!
There are countless things you can add to this delightful mayonnaise. Make your mayonnaise first, then add the extra ingredients and taste until you get where you want to be. Roasted garlic to make aioli is a standard, as is a squeeze of sriracha. Horseradish? Scallions? Tarragon? Pesto? Smoked paprika? Anchovies? Chopped hard-boiled egg and capers? Curry paste? Dill pickle relish? So many possibilities, let your imagination run wild.
P.S. I simply can’t believe I have posted 500 times on this site! How time flies!
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