I love asparagus. Probably a little too much, but I could eat it every day. And this time of year (really from early spring through summer), I can get asparagus easily from the grocery store. I pick asparagus that are thin, like little pencils. The ends are tightly twisted, like little buds, the bottoms aren’t mushy and there are no brown spots or shrivelled stalks. Really, other than raisins, does anything that is shrivelled taste good? The stalks should be bright green, with white or purplish ribs and the tips may also be purplish or dark green. When you grab the bunch, it should feel a little rubbery and almost squeak. That’s how you know you have a nice, fresh bunch of asparagus.
Asparagus is also really, really good for you. It’s rich in vitamin K, folate and vitamin C. And it’s delicious! And easy to cook! This is a winning combination for me. I don’t want to fuss with finicky vegetables when it’s so hot out that I seriously reconsider society’s little rules on wearing pants.
One of my favourite ways to cook asparagus is to grill it. I just toss it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and throw it on the grill, turning it frequently. The sugars caramelize and the stalks get tender. You know they’re ready when you pick one up with a tong and jiggle it a little. If the stalk “waves” when you shake it, it’s done. Hello, flavour! It’s so nice to see you again! Say hello to om-nom-nom for me! You may choose to wave back, if you will. Just don’t let the neighbours hear you talking to your food.
If it’s raining or you don’t want to grill, asparagus is also great roasted in the oven. Again, toss with oil, salt and pepper and throw it on a pan and into a 375F degree oven. After about 7 minutes or so, toss them and cook for another 7 minutes. They should have dark brown edges and crisp up a little. If you really want to dress it up, toss it with a little balsamic vinegar. Another easy, delicious side dish.
Asparagus is also great dressed with lemon. Lemon and asparagus are a classic combination. You can steam the asparagus (I do this with the asparagus flat in a saute pan with a little water and a lid for about 7 minutes or so. Who actually owns an asparagus steamer?) and then drizzle it with a simple lemon vinaigrette with a little dijon, lemon juice, oilve oil, salt and pepper. This is also delicious topped with a little chopped hard boiled egg. Sprinkle the top with some lemon zest. This is beautiful and wonderful with fish, grilled chicken and pork. It’s great for an easy dinner party, especially eaten outside on the deck as the sun goes down. With “Patio Lanterns” playing on the stereo. That really improves the flavour.
Eat some asparagus! It’s delicious!