Spring has sprung!
We hope everyone is enjoying the warming sun and budding plants. Warm weather demands the grill is used whenever possible at our house. Spring greens and young asparagus bring a taste of freshness that defines spring to me. Here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare fresh spring asparagus.
1. Grilled – Steaks and asparagus go so well together, not only in flavor but in logistics as well. I like to start with a roaring hot grill. Add the steaks with a healthy seasoning of salt and a spoonful of olive oil to lightly coat the surface. This olive oil will help with getting more caramelization across the entire surface of your meat. Once your protein is done cooking on the grill remove it and let it start resting. While it is resting it’s time to add the asparagus to the grill. Asparagus cooks quickly and is best (in my humble opinion) when it still has a vibrant green color but has lost the fibrous texture of raw asparagus and is tender. Lightly coat the asparagus with oil and salt and pepper, apply directly onto the grill or perforated pan that allows water to drip off, we’re not trying to steam the asparagus. 5-10 minutes, depending on the heat left in the grill and the amount of asparagus you’re cooking, should be plenty of time to cook the asparagus.
2. Blanched – I love the taste of fresh asparagus in a creamy pasta sauce. I like to make a simple cream sauce with heavy cream, garlic and salt, reduce that down by 1/3 or until it is thick enough for your preference. The key to using asparagus in saucy environments is to blanch it before hand and add it at the end to avoid over cooking it. First prepare an ice bath 1/2 water and 1/2 ice. Bring a large pot of salty water to rolling boil and add your raw asparagus whole. Briefly boil the asparagus until its a vibrant green color and is just beginning to tenderize but is not quite ready to eat. Once it is ready quickly remove it from the hot water and put it directly into the frigid ice bath (the colder the better). Now, once your sauce is complete, add it to your noodles and allow them to cook together briefly. Then add the blanched asparagus at the end and allow it to finish cooking briefly. To make it easier to get on a fork I like to cut the asparagus in half or 1/3’s depending on how large it is. Typically about the time it reaches the temperature of the sauce it is cooked completely and ready to come off the heat and be served.
3. Roasted – Similar to grilling, asparagus is great roasted in the oven. With your oven preheated to 425 F place your asparagus on a baking tray and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put it into the oven and roast for around 10 minutes. Roasting and grilling both allow you to concentrate the flavors inside of the asparagus by evaporating off some of the water diluting those flavors.
Whichever way you choose to cook asparagus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a light sprinkle of zest will brighten and
greatly enhance the earthy green flavors. You can easily make a great lemon butter sauce to drizzle over your asparagus by melting butter and simply adding a little zest to the hot butter. Allow the zest to sit in the hot butter for a minute to extract more of the lemon oils that will infuse your butter with a fresh lemony taste. This is great on almost anything, fish, chicken, vegetables (obviously asparagus is at or near the top of this list).
I hope you all are enjoying the onset of spring and all the great vegetables that will be soon overflowing farmers markets everywhere. As always I encourage you all to try something new in the kitchen anytime you get a chance. The most important part of a delicious meal is delicious ingredients. With vegetables the sooner they are eaten after harvest the better they will taste, in general. To me this is one of the most appealing aspects of doing your groccery shopping at farmers markets or from local CSA’s.