Although it isn’t officially Spring, it sure feels like it. Days have been warm and sunny. The trees are blooming, and the fields are filled with flowers of mustard and wild radish. There are even California poppies blooming here and there.
It’s a time when the earth is waking from her winter sleep. A marvelous time when there are not only an abundance of flowers blooming there are wonderful vegetables that only come with spring. And that includes one of my favorites, asparagus.
A member of the lily family, asparagus, (Asparagus officinalis), comes from the Greek word asparagos, which first appears in English print around 1000 A.D. It is known to be native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and cleansing and healing properties. It has been grown in Syria and Spain since ancient times and in the 16th Century, asparagus gained popularity in France and England. The colonists introduced it to the US. Today people throughout Europe, Asia, and North America enjoy fresh asparagus in a variety of ways.
Asparagus can be used as an ingredient in a main dish, served in salads and soups, and makes a delicious appetizer. It can be steamed, sautéed, grilled, stir-fried, baked or broiled. Not only is it delicious, it’s low in calories and sodium, and contains no fat or cholesterol. Asparagus contains Glutathione, one of the body’s most potent cancer fighters and Rutin, which is valuable in strengthening blood vessels.
Early asparagus can be very thin; fatter, juicier spears come in later in the season. Thinner asparagus is better suited to sautés, sauces, or grilling. Later, fatter asparagus is better served whole. Look for asparagus that is smooth-skinned and bright-colored. The heads should be compact and tightly formed. If the heads are not compact and tightly formed the asparagus was harvested too late, and will likely be tough, taste grassy and bitter and may discolor when cooked.
Here’s a recipe that just shouts Spring.
Asparagus in lemon and herb sauce
Serves 4 -6
20 to 30 stalks of asparagus, 6” long
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup warm Chicken Stock
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced chives (optional)
1 tablespoon finely minced dill (optional)
Clean the asparagus, removing the tough ends. Cook asparagus in boiling water until tender; be sure not to overcook. The stalks should still be slightly crisp. As soon as the asparagus is done, run it under cold water. Keep warm while making the sauce.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the egg yolks and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and whisk until the mixture is quite smooth.
Add the warm stock and place the saucepan over medium heat. Cook the sauce until it is quite thick, whisking vigorously all the time. As soon as the sauce has the consistency of custard, remove the saucepan immediately from the heat and continue whisking until the sauce has cooled.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper and add the optional, chives and dill. Place the asparagus on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over it without covering the tips. Serve immediately.
From: The Seasonal Kitchen, by Perla Meyers
For another delicious way to cook asparagus check out my recent post Grill\’n Between Storms.
What to buy at the Farmers’ Market: