Asparagus in the spring.
Food lovers the world over wait impatiently for the first lovely spears to appear in the markets.
But, are you anxously looking for green? White? Violet?
It depends on where you live.
In the U.S. people look for slender, green asparagus.
In Europe people look for fat, white asparagus.
I had some of both, recently. The green was imported from Peru; the white was local.
White asparagus keeps it’s snowy appearance by being grown without sun. It’s less bitter than the green and more tender.
It’s also big.
Violet asparagus is more slender than the white, with purplish tips.
I store green and purple asparagus by slicing off an inch (3cm) or so of the bottom and standing the spears in water. It will keep a few days in the fridge.
White asparagus we try to eat right away.
All of it is best eaten within hours of being cut…..
To prepare green or thin violet asparagus: Snap off the ends by holding the very end of the stalk and bending carefully until it snaps. It will break naturally where the tender stalk begins.
To prepare white asparagus: Cut off the woody stem ends – do not snap or you will lose half the asparagus. Peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler, starting from just below the tip. White asparagus tends to be brittle, so, to avoid snapping it, lay it flat on the counter to peel.
To cook on top of the stove: Put spears into a skillet big enough to hold them without cutting, add water to cover bottom by 1/4 inch, cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and cook just until done, 8 – 12 minutes, longer for white, adding a bit of water as needed.
To bake/roast: Put a drizzle of oil on a baking sheet – one with a lip all around. I use a pizza pan. Roll the asparagus in oil (use your fingers!). Put in the oven at 400F (200C), tips facing the oven door. Bake for 15 – 25 minutes, depending on size. White will take the longest.
To cook on barbecue grill: Rub with olive oil. Either cook directly on barbecue grill (being careful not to let any slip through, or on a mesh pan. Turn frequently. Should be done in 7 – 15 minutes depending on size and heat. They will start to brown slightly but that’s okay – adds flavor and crunch.
To sauté: Put 1 tbs butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add asparagus and sauté over medium heat until starting to brown and done, 6 – 10 minutes, depending on size.
Green asparagus I prefer to sauté in olive oil, sometimes just finishing with a bit of pepper and sea salt….
Sometimes with a Tarragon Yogurt Sauce:
Sautéed Asparagus with Tarragon Yogurt Sauce
10oz (300gr) asparagus
2 tsp olive oil
Tarragon Yogurt Sauce
Snap off ends of asparagus. If white use vegetable peeler and peel the bottom half of stalk, laying the asparagus flat to prevent breaking. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add asparagus and sauté over medium heat until starting to brown and blister, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove, spoon Yogurt Sauce over and serve.
Tarragon Yogurt Sauce
3 tbs Greek or plain yogurt
1 tbs mayonnaise
1 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
2 tsp fresh, snipped tarragon
1 tsp fresh, snipped chives
1 tbs good olive oil
Whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard. Drizzle in oil, whisking. Stir in snipped herbs.
I use the skillet method for fat, white asparagus and finish it with a drizzle of butter and fresh chives.
You can also, blanch them for 2 minutes, refresh and use in this Chinese salad:
Chinese Asparagus Salad
Adapted from the book of ‘!,000 Chinese Recipes
12oz (350gr) green asparagus
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
Snap off ends of asparagus. Roll cut asparagus in 1 inch (2.5 cm) lengths. Fill large saucepan half full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling drop in asparagus and parboil for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. Spread them on paper towels and pat dry. In a bowl big enough to nicely hold the asparagus mix soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Add asparagus and toss lightly to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. Best if allowed to sit for 15 – 30 minutes.
My friend, Tanna, has a great recipe for slow-roasting….
If you’re serious about your asparagus, plan a trip to Germany next April for ‘Spargelfest’. The country goes mad for asparagus and hold festivals in it’s honor.
Be prepared to eat a 4 course meal – each course featuring asparagus.
And all of it will be white, tenderly reared, harvested by hand and lovingly cooked.
See you there….
For more asparagus recipes look under both Vegetable, Starter and Salad in the index at the top.