Asparagus is one of Spring's greatest gifts. And one of the best surprises the family who built my farm left for us. We coddle our asparagus patch, which is nearing a hundred years old. Every year at this time we watch eagerly for the first tiny spear to push its way up (the deer are watching too). And then the feast begins.
- When you buy asparagus, look for tightly closed crowns. Once the crowns start to open, the asparagus is aging and will not have great flavor or texture. Buy the freshest asparagus possible, the flavor and texture fade quickly and can become bitter.
- Choose unblemished stalks, they should be green all or most of the way down to the bottom. Hard woody bottoms are not edible and will have to be discarded.
- When preparing asparagus, snap them rather than cut them. You'll find the natural spot easily. Starting at the bottom, feel your way upward and snap just where there is a bit of bend and give.
- Keep the bottoms that you break off. Toss them in a pot with your chicken stock, and add the broth to your asparagus risotto.
- Fresh asparagus does not need much embellishment, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Dress asparagus with a drizzle of fine olive oil. You can use a lighter style oil or a more robust oil for more impact. Or experiment with a palette of oils for global flavors.
- Do not overcook asparagus. Steam until bright green, and serve immediately with a dash of fine Japanese Sea Salt.
- Quickly broiled asparagus is a wonderful way to concentrate the flavor. Drizzle with olive oil, add a bit of salt and slide under the broiler. Watch carefully and remove as soon as they brown, only a few minutes. You can serve with a squeeze of lemon if you'd like.
- Cook asparagus quickly on the stovetop in olive oil on medium high heat until tender. To gild the lily you can serve with a bit of parmesan.
- Add fresh or leftover asparagus to omelets, pasta, rice or cous cous.
- If you are cooking the stems separately from the crowns, add the crowns after the stalks have begun to tenderize. They cook very quickly.
- For a truly memorable asparagus meal, try Hiroko's recipe for Asparagus with Shoyu and Espelette Pepper.