Local asparagus, a member of the lily family, is at its delicious best now! Versatile asparagus is at home as an appetizer, a main course or as a salad. It can be enjoyed hot or cold and lends itself to a variety of classic sauces such as: béarnaise, hollandaise and aioli, which complement its unique taste.
Asparagus can be prepared simply: break off the tough ends, rinse thoroughly in cold water and plunge into boiling for two minutes until tender crisp; drain and serve with a squeeze of lemon, melted butter, sea salt and fresh black pepper.
However, it also lends itself to more elaborate dishes such as quiche or crepes. It is the one vegetable which is perfectly correct to pick up, dip it into a sauce and eat with your fingers.
A few tips for preparation:
· Choose bright green asparagus with tightly closed, purplish tips. The thickness of the stalk does not tell the freshness but the closed tips indicate just picked quality.
· Asparagus is best bought and served the same day. However, it can be refrigerated up to three days if kept in a tall container (plastic yogurt container) with water in the bottom and a plastic bag over the tips to help keep it hydrated.
· Because asparagus is grown in sandy soil, wash in several changes of cold water to remove any grit.
· After washing asparagus, break off tough stems and discard. The bottom of the stems may be peeled with a vegetable peeler to make them more palatable before cooking.
·Do not overcook asparagus. It requires about two minutes of cooking in rapidly boiling water, then should be drained immediately. If going to be served cold, plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry with a tea towel; wrap in tea towel and refrigerate until ready to use.
Dressings should be drizzled over at the last minute to prevent the asparagus from losing its vibrant green colour.
Spring Greens, New Potatoes and Asparagus Salad
This is one of my favourite asparagus recipes from my cookbook, The Lactose Family Cookbook. It is yummy served with barbecued salmon but it is equally tasty with any fish or meat.
Be sure to choose asparagus with closely closed tips for maximum freshness.
If using fiddleheads, wash in several changes of water to ensure crevices have been cleaned of debris.
12 small new potatoes, scrubbed
1 lb (500 g) fresh asparagus
8 oz (250 g) fiddleheads or substitute more asparagus
12 cups (3 L) assorted field greens
1/4 cup (50 mL) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (50 mL) each water, vegetable oil, and extra virgin olive oil
1 clove, garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) each, salt and granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In steamer over simmering water, steam potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling water, cook asparagus and fiddleheads until tender-crisp, two to three minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Cut asparagus into two-inch (10 cm) pieces.
Herbal Vinaigrette: In food processor or mixing bowl using whisk, combine vinegar, water, vegetable and olive oils, garlic, salt, tarragon mustard and pepper until smooth. In large bowl, toss together greens, asparagus, fiddleheads and potatoes with enough dressing to coat. Any remaining dressing will keep covered and refrigerated for up to two weeks. Arrange on platter or individual plates. Serve immediately. Makes six servings.
Roasted Asparagus with Dill Butter
Roasting is another technique for cooking asparagus which intensifies its delicate flavour. Dill and tarragon are both naturally good taste accompaniments as is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Be sure to choose stems of equal thickness to ensure that asparagus cooks evenly.
1.5 lbs (375 g) asparagus with tough ends removed
2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh chopped dill or fresh tarragon
Generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Arrange asparagus in single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet. In a saucepan melt butter and herb together; drizzle evenly over asparagus. Bake in oven 15–18 minutes turning halfway through cooking until asparagus is tender. Serve immediately with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. Makes 4–6 servings.