YOU FELT THE change, didn’t you? Last weekend was warm and pleasant, the sweet tree blossoms perfuming the air with hope. Spring!
It’s time to lighten up the menu. Put away the heavy stews and break out some spring vegetables — peas, lettuce, asparagus. While the home gardener might have some lettuce ready for harvest, chances are slim that an asparagus patch is growing out back.
Asparagus is cultivated and used in cuisines the world over. It’s spear-like stalks are best eaten when young and tender with tightly budded tips, though thicker stems can be peeled at the base to remove the woody outer layer. It comes in green, white and purple varieties — white asparagus, prized for their tender, sweet taste, are grown without exposure to light depriving them of green chlorophyll.
This vegetable is great in even the simplest preparation. Drizzle the spears in olive oil, sprinkle generously with kosher salt and grill over high heat for 5-10 minutes, turning often to ensure even cooking.
Or, chop the asparagus into 2-inch lengths and saute them in olive oil with mushrooms and garlic. Throw in some fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. To make it extra special, stir in some fresh chevre (goat cheese) after removing the vegetables from the cooking heat.
For top notch presentation, try this recipe from the vegetarian folks at the Moosewood Collective. It combines bright flavor (dill) and color (red peppers) with the springy taste of asparagus. It may be served at room temperature, but I prefer it hot from the oven.
Roasted Asparagus with Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 lb fresh asparagus
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into eighths
- ¼ c olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 TB red wine vinegar
- 2-3 tsp chopped fresh dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a baking tray.
- Snap off any tough ends on the asparagus and rinse well. Toss the spears with the olive oil, garlic and salt, placing them in a single layer in one half of the tray. On the other half, arrange the red pepper strips. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Place the roasted red pepper strips in a blender with the olive oil, garlic, vinegar and dill. Puree until smooth. Add the salt and pepper.
- Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter. With some of the red pepper sauce, drizzle a ribbon over the asparagus, serving the rest of the sauce in a pitcher at the table.
Find asparagus in any number of groceries around Renton, including Safeway, Fred Meyer, Uwajimaya, DK Market and Viet Wah.