I tried to convince my parents to start an asparagus bed in their backyard garden. No luck. They have quite a bit going on in their lives, without having to worry about a new project. And of course, we don’t really have too much space besides the small plots my dad has worked in all corners of the yard, leaving the monstrous azalea bushes to fill much of the rest of the space.
Ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” several years ago, I’ve been enamored with asparagus. It’s a delicious, early spring vegetable, with a flavor that’s hard to describe. I just finished reading the book again this year as part of the library system’s “Big Read” focused on connecting us with where our food comes from. (If you haven’t read it, you should!)
Until I can convince my parents that everyone needs a backyard asparagus patch (or I have a yard of my own), I’ll have to be content with getting it from local farmers at the market. It’s a little pricey, at about $4 a bunch, but it’s also something that you can get locally for only a few short weeks. (A big plus: Asparagus is packed with tons of vitamins and nutrients.) And one bunch can provide many servings for just me. It’s been around for just about a month now, so I’m wondering how much longer we can get it for. I’ve picked up a bunch every week that I’ve been in town.
And I still haven’t gotten sick of it. Maybe I need to get some extra this week to get all my asparagus cravings out of my system before its season ends. I’m considering trying to pickle some, so that I can extend its season slightly, though as my mom reminded me: I don’t actually like pickled things. But if I’ve learned to like radishes, maybe picked vegetables are next?
So, what have I done with all this asparagus? Here are some recipes, both easy and slightly more involved. You really don’t have to do much to asparagus, and it’s best left as simple as possible.
- Grill it. Cover the asparagus with a little oil, fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt, and throw them on the grill for just a few minutes.
- Roast it. Just like prepping asparagus for the grill, use oil, pepper and salt, put the spears in a pan in a hot oven (somewhere between 350-450, though if we set our oven higher than 400 degrees, the smoke alarm goes off every time you open the oven door!). Roast them for 4-5 minutes, or so, until still bright green, with a bit of a brown sear, and still a bite to them. You don’t want your asparagus to get mushy.
- When roasting, add some lemon, whole cloves of garlic, grated Parmesan or homemade dressing, if you’d like.
- Toast some good bread, and cover with butter. Roast a serving of asparagus and place on top of the bread. Grate on some Parmesan cheese. Soft boil a farm egg (boil a pot of water with a splash of vinegar, add an egg, let simmer about 4-5 minutes, cool the egg under cold water, then unpeel and serve immediately). Split the egg on top of the toast and asparagus and let the rich yolk ooze onto everything. Yum. (I bet you could do this with other vegetables too, maybe roasted mushrooms?)
- Make pasta. I used this Spring Vegetable Pasta from America’s Test Kitchen, since I had a leek, some spring onions, frozen peas, along with wine, mint, chives and lemons. There are quite a few steps, but it was delicious. It tastes almost creamy because of the risotto method of cooking the pasta (toast the dry pasta in oil, add some wine, then hot broth). I would recommend making this recipe. (I halved it, and still have plenty of leftovers for myself.)
- Make gallettes. I made them for Easter brunch. I used a beautiful recipe from “Baking with Julia” for the gallette dough, then filled the individual rustic pies with ricotta, fontina, prosciutto and asparagus tips. Yum.
How do you like to cook your asparagus? I’d love to hear about your favorite recipes for this spring vegetable!