Just another rite of spring, asparagus is one of the most versatile vegetables that spring brings.
Steamed, sautéed, grilled, roasted, baked and battered, asparagus offers a lot of variety and colors. Soup and salads come to mind.
I dipped a couple dozen asparagus spears in beaten egg and cornstarch, then used panko bread crumbs. The battered spears went into a 425 degree preheated oven for ten minutes turning once. Wow, easy and excellent.
• Trim the bottom inch or two to remove any tough ends.
• Store fresh asparagus like fresh bouquets. Trim the ends, remove the band holding the bunch together, and stand spears in a tall cup or jar with enough water to keep ends moist.
• Shaved ribbons in salads are easy. Place spear on an upside-down bowl for stability. Using a swivel peeler, gently peel in long strokes away from you. When it gets difficult to shave, slice the remainder.
• Purple asparagus turns dark green when cooked. (Heat breaks down the pigment which is only in the skin.) Purple spears are sweeter and more tender than the other colors.
• Thinner spears are not tastier than thicker spears. At any diameter, freshness is key to tenderness and flavor.
• White asparagus is grown under mulch or a tarp to prevent sunlight from reaching them, so they don’t form chlorophyll that makes plants green. White asparagus tends to be more expensive, and has a tough skin that needs to be peeled off.
Asparagus Ribbon Salad
The asparagus-pea pesto dressing makes a great dressing with spaghetti and shrimp for a quick meal.
1 1/2 bunches asparagus (12 oz), washed and trimmed
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups preferred lettuce
1. Cut half of one bunch asparagus into 1-inch pieces (3/4 cup). In a medium saucepan bring about 5 cups water to boiling. Add asparagus pieces; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bright green and crisp-tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water until cold; drain. Repeat with fresh peas. (For frozen peas, skip cooking; rinse under water to thaw.)
2. For asparagus-pea pesto: In a food processor combine asparagus pieces, 1 cup peas, garlic and vinegar. Cover; pulse several times to chop. Scrape sides. Pulse again until mixture forms a paste. With machine running, slowly add olive oil. Add Parmesan; pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, set aside.
3. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel remaining asparagus to create thin ribbons. Slice any remaining pieces. In a large bowl combine asparagus, ribbons, preferred lettuce, and remaining 1/3 cup peas. Add 1/2 cup pesto; toss to coat. (refrigerate remaining pesto up to 1 week.)
Makes 4 servings @ 179 calories each.
(Source: Better Homes & Gardens)
Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 25 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.