One of the most tempting gifts of springtime is the abundance of asparagus. With the chill of winter over and the promise of life renewed, beautiful apple-green stalks push up their purple-tinged tips. These young asparagus shoots, which are a tasty member of the lily family, need no embellishment — just a hint of lemon butter, a splash of salty Dijon mustard vinaigrette, or a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt, olive oil, and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Roasted, steamed, sautéed or boiled, asparagus is the perfect accompaniment to roast lamb or grilled fish. With some crusty bread and a glass of Gewürztraminer, it can even stand alone as a delicious light meal.
Here are some asparagus tips;
- Choose spears that are firm, smooth, and moist. The tips should be tightly closed, and not flowering or broken.
- For even cooking, select spears that are all the same diameter — thin, medium, or fat. Thin spears do not need to be peeled, but they have less flavor and texture, are easily over-cooked. Medium spears are rich in taste and texture. Peeling is usually optional. Fat spears have a tough skin that needs to be removed. Once they are peeled and cooked, the bright lime colored stalks pop — in contrast to the darker green tips. Fat spears are delicious and buttery.
- To peel asparagus — lay each stalk flat, and using a vegetable peeler with light pressure, peel from tip to butt. Leave about 1½ inches of the tip unpeeled.
- Break off the tough bottom portion of the spear at the natural breaking point. Fortunately, they usually snap at just the right place. Freshen up the ends with a clean cut.
- Asparagus can be cooked loose or tied in bundles. To create bundles, take a hand full and stack them with the tips down. Wrap white cord around both ends and tie securely. Cut off the butt ends to make them even.
- Wash the spears and wrap them in paper towels. Stored in a plastic bag, they will stay fresh for 2-4 days in the refrigerator.
- For the easiest cooking, lay loose spears in a wide shallow pan of boiling salted water. Cook for 1-2 minutes until crisp, tender and bright green. Carefully transfer them to paper towels; plate and serve immediately. If they are to be served cold, plunge the cooked asparagus in ice water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking.
- To steam, place bundles vertically in a steamer for 6-8 minutes.
- To roast asparagus, lightly toss loose spears with olive oil and kosher salt. Place them in a baking pan and roast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until tender and slightly brown.
Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Prepare the asparagus
- Fresh medium-sized asparagus — allow 6 spears per person
- Large shallow sauté pan of boiling salted water
- Large bowl of ice water
Break off the tough ends of the asparagus at the natural breaking point. Peeling them is optional. Give the butt ends a fresh cut. Wash the asparagus well.
Lay the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes until tender, crisp and bright green. Immediately transfer the spears to the ice water. Chill for 2 minutes. Drain and dry them on paper towels.
Chill the asparagus.
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For the vinaigrette
- 1 large Meyer lemon (or 1 regular lemon)
- 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated white pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and remove the juice.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the vinaigrette is well emulsified.
Arrange the asparagus on a large platter or individual plates.
Pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus and sprinkle with lemon zest.
To avoid discoloration of the asparagus, add the vinaigrette just before serving.
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