Through the Kitchen Window

One of my favourite food related reasons for loving this time of year is the asparagus abundance that is looming just around the corner. I mean, in this day of hot houses and everything at your fingertips, asparagus really is available almost any time any place. But there’s nothing like your locally grown, “fresh off the bush” spears that can be found anywhere in the early spring. “But it’s only March!” you say?

I know that, but it’s ALMOST here!!!

Some of the healthy things that it’s good to know about asparagus, in case you needed a reason to enjoy it:

  • Asparagus is low in calories; just 20 calories per serving (8 medium spears)
  • Asparagus is fat and cholesterol free
  • Asparagus is an excellent source of folacin
  • Asparagus is a leading source of glutahione

These last two are nutrients that help prevent disease and promote a healthy body.

  • Asparagus is a good source of protein
  • Asparagus is a significant source of thiamin and vitamin B6
  • Asparagus is one of the richest sources of rutin, a drug which strengthens capillary walls.

Not bad for a little green spear, huh?

And I like my asparagus best just lightly steamed, slightly chilled and eaten with my fingers. Sometimes I’ll take the time to dip each spear into a vinaigrette made of one part balsamic vinegar, two parts extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Sometimes I’ll dip it in a freshly made aioli.

Lemon Aioli

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • pinch saffron (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, cover garlic with water; bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. If using, stir saffron into lemon juice; set aside to dissolve, about 5 minutes. In food processor, process garlic and lemon zest; to form puree. Add mayonnaise and lemon juice mixture; process until well blended. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

But mostly I just eat it steamed. Because, to me, THAT is the taste of asparagus.

And it’s funny that of all the differences we have among us, the whole family seems to enjoy their asparagus the same way. I call it the harmony of the spears. ;)

But I do cook it in other ways as well. For instance:

Take some of the thicker spears and thread them raft like onto two bamboo skewers (one skewer at each end of the spear but be careful not to put the skewer through the tip). I usually do five to six spears per “raft” depending on how thick they are. Lay your rafts on a baking sheet like a jelly roll pan and douse them with balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper. Let them sit for about an hour, then fire up the bbq and grill lightly. Once they’re grilled, I lay them right back on the baking sheet to allow them to absorb more of the vinegar. Heavenly!!!

Or, after lightly steaming the asparagus, making sure they are still nicely crisp, melt some butter in a sauté pan and allow it to brown gently. Then toss your asparagus in the browned butter until it’s well coated. Top with freshly ground pepper and enjoy!!!

I love asparagus with pasta too. Sauté steamed asparagus with oyster mushrooms in a mixture of half olive oil half butter. When lightly golden toss with your favourite shape of pasta (I love penne for this) and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigianino and black pepper.

Or, toss some cold steamed asparagus into your next salad. Dress with a red wine vinaigrette and accompany with a loaf of crusty bread.

Mmmmm!!! I’m headed to the market to find me some asparagus.

See you next month.