Asparagus is now available at our stores! One of the greatest culinary joys of a sunshiny summer, is tender, asparagus stalks in vivid green or creamy white. Pencil-thin or as thick as a thumb, it grows in shades of white, purple and green, with our stores stocking the green and white varieties. Green Asparagus with a slightly milder flavour is commonly available but the white asparagus is more rare and seasonal and considered a spring delicacy making it a rare treat.
Available in bundles, these fabulous vegetables are tender stalks that end in spear-like points and are highly nutritious. High in vitamins C, E and beta-carotene they are rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
A versatile vegetable, Asparagus can be grilled, blanched, batter-fried and even pickled. The French serve it with hollandaise, the Italians love it wrapped with prosciutto and served as a precursor to an Italian meal.
Many people new to Asparagus tend to feel intimidated by this vegetable. However it is not complicated. As Asparagus matures, the stems get woody from the base up. The woody part can be difficult to eat. So to prepare it, wash each spear individually under cold water, then simply hold each spear in two hands and gently bend. The stem will automatically snap off where the hard, woody sections of the stems start. The thinner spears need not be trimmed. This difference in texture can also be a good guide to how to use the woody, sweet stalks. Woody stalks need not go to waste, just add them to your stockpot.
For a simple yet elegant start to a meal, boil some thin asparagus till fork tender. Season it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with shaved pecorino cheese and serve.
Asparagus pairs beautifully with beef. Combine them together in a stir-fry with Japanese seasonings for a quick weeknight dinner. Trick the kids into eating this healthy veggie by adding it into a macaroni and cheese meal. Or arrange the stalks like a wheel on a pizza with cheese and garlic. Choose the thicker spears, drape 3-4 with bacon strips and drizzle with a dressing of sesame oil, minced garlic, sesame seeds and brown sugar. Roast till the bacon is crispy and enjoy it as a rich, leisurely breakfast. Asparagus also fits right in with risotto, in tarts with goat’s cheese and creamy pasta dishes.
The season for good quality, fresh asparagus is short, which makes the vegetable that much more interesting. So be sure to include this lovely ingredient in your meals for divine flavours and lots of delicious nutrition!
(Photo credit: foodgawker.com)