Food Friday: Asparagus Time!

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Forget about that forecast for snow tomorrow. Do not listen to those weather reports. Spring has sprung, and one of the first harbingers of the joyous season of renewal is the deliciousness that is asparagus. Maybe you are the hardy sort who plants it, or you are like the rest of us, and you are a loyal consumer. Either way, it’s time. Get out there and plant, or go out and buy a big, verdant bunch of super fresh asparagus.

Just to let you know what sort of household I live in – my children thought that pickles were green, leafy vegetables. It was difficult to get them to eat anything exotic (read: healthy) from the produce section. I have never been a big fan of stinky, cooked vegetables either, so they must come by it naturally. It wasn’t until I went to college that I finally ate a cooked pea. Mostly because there was no one in the dining hall who would accommodate my eating peccadillos. I drew the line at Brussels sprouts that were served there;talk about stinky!

I still don’t like vegetables that have been stewed beyond recognition. And I resist kale on principal. Aren’t we lucky there are so many ways to enjoy asparagus? Lightly roasted, gently steamed, broiled, wrapped with bacon, folded into pasta, trembling on the edge of ancestral china, lightly dusted with grated egg yolks, rolled in sesame seeds, on top of pizza, in a quiche …

Here is a duel between a Food52 recipe for asparagus and pasta, and one by Martha. I am inclined toward the Food52 version, just because I have all the ingredients, and don’t need to shovel the driveway to go to the store for mascarpone.

Creamy Asparagus, Lemon, and Walnut Pasta
Serves 2

7 ounces dried spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
1 pound asparagus spears
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil. Season with salt, then add pasta. Cook according to package directions for “al dente.” Set aside about 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.

While water is coming to a boil, cut off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the remainder into 1/3-inch rounds, leaving the tips intact. Heat olive oil and garlic in a large pan over medium heat for five minutes. Add asparagus, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cover pan and cook asparagus for 4 to 8 minutes, until tender to the bite. Turn off heat and discard garlic.

Once pasta is finished, purée 1/3 of the cooked asparagus and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water in a food processor, blender, or immersion blender until smooth. Try to avoid blending the asparagus tips, for aesthetic reasons.

Add puréed asparagus back to pan, along with sliced asparagus. Mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, and more pasta water as needed to keep the sauce loose. Heat on low for a minute or two to allow pasta to absorb some of the sauce. Serve immediately, topped with chopped walnuts.

https://food52.com/recipes/28279-creamy-asparagus-lemon-and-walnut-pasta

Egg Noodles with Asparagus and Grated Egg Yolks
Serves 4 to 6

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, stems cut on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces, tips cut into 2-inch lengths
12 ounces wide egg noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh juice
8 ounces mascarpone
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan (2 ounces)
4 hard-cooked egg yolks, grated on the large holes of a box grater

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add pasta to water; cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water. Return pasta to pot with asparagus. Stir in zest and juice and both cheeses; toss to coat. Add pasta water, little by little, to adjust consistency until creamy. Sprinkle with grated yolks and pepper; serve.

https://www.marthastewart.com/1515859/egg-noodles-asparagus-and-grated-egg-yolks

If you want to start planning for your asparagus future, you had best get to work on your asparagus bed. We aren’t going to try them this year in our new raised garden bed. We have a very humble 4 feet by 8 feet raised bed that we built last weekend. I feel like Mrs. Ingalls out on the prairie with our six tomato plants, 6 pepper plants, 2 basil plants, a dozen beans, and a whole row of nasturtiums. Everything will be edible and beautiful. The bunnies are sure to appreciate all our efforts, thank you, Mary Lou!

I just didn’t think that we would be vigilant and enthused enough to attempt asparagus on this first outing. The weeding alone would disqualify me. Asparagus plants do not tolerate weeds. So think about that as you start nibbling away on your own the sweet, tender asparagus spears you bought at the farmers’ market this weekend. https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/growing-asparagus/7343.html

“Asparagus, when picked, should be no thicker than a darning needle.”
Alice B. Toklas

About Jean Sanders

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