Time for the fresh, local asparagus to hit the market. I can hardly wait! It always arrives around the same time every year (about the middle of May), but my impatience gets the best of me and I start asking “When will the asparagus be ready?” right around the middle of April….
We grew up eating asparagus and always looked forward to the season. Yes, and it was only available for the season, about 2 weeks, because back in the day, you couldn’t find asparagus year-round at the grocery stores. Growing up, the culinary prowess in the family was quite...
...limited and the only way we were served asparagus was boiled. And I mean really boiled. No crisp tender veggies allowed at the Lucas household. There’s a bit of English in our heritage and the culinary ethnicity really shined through in the vegetable department – just boil the crap out of it. Don’t care what it is, just boil it until it is soft, almost mushy and most of the color is gone. Still tasted good though. We didn’t know any better.
Now, asparagus rarely sees water in my kitchen other than during the cleaning process. Grilled or roasted is the standard and crisp-tender is the goal. If roasting, just toss on a sheet pan with a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt & pepper. Roast at 375 – 400 degrees for about 8-10 minutes, depending on size. To grill, prep the same as for roasting but place asparagus directly on the grill, turning often, for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
While the asparagus is in season we use it in everything and it’s good for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, grill or roast twice as much asparagus as you need for your meal and the leftovers can be used in so many things. Leftover asparagus is great chopped up and added to scrambled eggs (our version of Green Eggs and Ham), lightly re-warmed and topped with a poached egg is luxurious for breakfast, added to your luncheon salad, tossed in any stir-fry, serve chilled with a little shallot vinaigrette and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese for a change in salad choice. Or eaten directly from the container in the fridge with your fingers is probably the best reason to cook extra.
Then there’s cream of asparagus soup. Silky, creamy and oh so good. While the local asparagus is abundant, we buy bags and bags and make lots of soup for freezing. Just prepare your soup up to the point of adding the milk or cream. Portion into containers at this point (without the dairy) and freeze. To serve, reheat the soup and add the appropriate amount of cream as shown in your recipe and continue to warm just until the cream is heated though. You can then enjoy this in the dead of winter and it is just like having a bowl of fresh asparagus soup in May!
If you are looking for a great place to purchase your fresh, local asparagus, go to Harmon Inc. on South Warner in Fremont. Holly & Doug Harmon bring in asparagus from Hart (a Michigan asparagus Mecca) and set up a stand outside their business. You can purchase by the bunch or by the box (insert smile) and it doesn’t get any better than this!
For a real switch up and a new twist on using asparagus, try this salad using raw asparagus. It’s amazing!
Asparagus & Parmesan Salad
1 bunch thin asparagus, tough bottom stems removed
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Slice the asparagus, including the tips into very thin slices, crosswise and place
in a medium bowl. Add the red onion and Parmesan Cheese and toss to combine. Toss with vinegar, olive oil and salt. There should be a fair about of vinegar on the asparagus as the vinegar will sort of "cook" or tenderize the asparagus and the onions. Allow the salad to set for about an hour, tossing occasionally, so all the flavors can blend.
As Julia always said, Bon Appétit!
Terrie Ortwein has been interested in the culinary arts since her early years spent helping her Dad in the restaurant business. When not catering, conducting cooking classes, creating delicious dishes and minding her enchanting little shop in downtown Newaygo Terrie is an avid reader, a doting grandmother, and organizer of truly epic dinner parties.
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