Oh, Kansas! Spring produce season is here and I could not be happier. Asparagus, tiny lettuces, radishes, and all the other gorgeous garden bounty is making everyone excited. I’m talking today about asparagus, my favorite spring vegetable. The arrival of asparagus always makes me feel hopeful. It is, to chefs, like daffodils and tulips to flower gardeners. Asparagus is relief and joy!
Asparagus can be very expensive off season, but it has been a delicacy for centuries and is worth the price. Long ago, it was considered an aphrodisiac (possibly because of its shape and fast growth pattern), and served to royalty. It is one of the few vegetables that are considered proper to eat with one’s fingers. Use your imagination about that etiquette issue. It comes in differing thicknesses and colors, from pencil thin and glossy green to as thick as a thumb and purple.
I like to prepare it very simply, steaming it, adding butter, salt and pepper once it is just tender. I add more butter if I feel thin. You can also toss it with olive oil and roast it at high heat until browned and then add seasonings. I grill it in a wire fish pan over charcoal, and it comes out smoky and crispy in spots. Asparagus shrinks a lot during cooking, so I usually buy about twice as much as I think I need, so I can have leftovers.
You can make vinaigrette and toss blanched, cold asparagus with it for a salad. Orange and thyme are fun flavors to add, and it takes well to creamy sauces like hollandaise. I had a wonderful eggs benedict with asparagus and a crab cake at Doo-Dah diner last year and loved it so much I wouldn’t even share a bite.