Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Asparagus Season is Here!

Asparagus has very low saturated fats and possess very high fiber content, folic acid, potassium and variety of vitamins (A, B, C and iron). Its minimal Glycemic index makes it excellent for diabetics and diets.  It is also the only vegetable that contains Glutathione, an antioxidant found in the body that is known to fight bad cholesterol, water retention and major diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. But in spite of how good it is for you -  asparagus is absolutely delicious!!!!!

: Choose your asparagus with a firm stalk, tight tips and a vivid color. White asparagus (considered far superior by Europeans) comes from the same plant but is deprived of light so it cannot produce chlorophyll to give it a green color. Thinner stalks mean the plant was younger and more tender than thicker stalks. White asparagus are usually wonderful even when thick.

Asparagus does not keep well (3 days maximum in a wet towel in refrigerator): ideally, they should be consumed within 24 hours of purchase. You can freeze asparagus after blanching 2-4 minutes in boiling water.

Wash asparagus thoroughly under cool running water to remove any sand or dirt. Pat dry with a clean soft cloth. The tip of the asparagus is very tender, but the further down you go on the stalk, the tougher it gets. If you bend the asparagus it will naturally snap at the point where it goes from tender to tough (which is usually about 1/3 of the stalk). To ensure even cooking the large asparagus stalks should be peeled so that they are the same width as the tip. Really thin asparagus do not need peeling.

Cooking Methods:
Asparagus can be served many ways: hot or cooled to room temperature.  Michel Jean of Stissing House tells me that he uses a vegetable peeler to create shavings of raw garden fresh asparagus which he then sprinkles onto his salads.  Steamed they can be added to pizzas, soups, salads, and pasta, enjoyed plain with a bit of butter, salt and pepper or served with a simple vinaigrette sauce.  If not serving hot, spears should quickly be placed in a bowl of ice water or in a colander under cold running water so they will not loose their bright green color. Asparagus can be cooked in various methods. In each the cooking time varies according to the thickness of the stems. They should be soft enough to bite into easily but al dente enough to still hold their shape. They must be drained to remove all excess water. Boiling: Place salted water in a pot on the stove and when boiling starts add asparagus for about 4-5 minutes. (This is easier if they are tied in bunches.) Once plated, sprinkle salt and pepper over it and serve hot.  Steaming: Bring 1 inch water to boil in a steamer. Place asparagus in basket, cover and steam over medium-high heat until asparagus spears are slightly undercooked, 3- 4 minutes for medium spears. Microwaving: place the stems in a microwave safe dish. Add about one-fourth of a cup of water and cover.. Then cook it for 5-7 minutes. If you are using chopped asparagus, 4-5 minutes should be enough. Roasting: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Rub oven tray or pan with some oil and place the asparagus in.  Sprinkle with some pepper, garlic and salt. And cook for 8-10 minutes.

Wine Pairings

Asparagus does not pair well with most wines – the best are Gewurztraminer,
Pinot Grigio or a Chenin Blanc.

Asparagus Vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard. (I prefer, Maille, sold at Marona’s)
1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar (I like Dal Raccolta Old Chianti Vinegar which I buy it at Quattros
1 Cup of Vegetable Oil (I use Peant Oil from Marona’s)
Salt And Fresh Ground Pepper

There are several ways to prepare a vinaigrette but the classical recipe is to slowly add 3 parts of oil at room temperature to 1 part of vinegar, using a whisk, until it emulsifies into a creamy sauce. For this recipe, place mustard at bottom of bowl, add vinegar and season.with salt and pepper before you add the oil (because salt does not mix with oil). Add 1/3 of oil. Whisk until thickens. Add 2nd third of oil. Whisk until thicker. Add last third of oil. Whisk again. VOILA! French Salad Dressing! (By adding the oil in three parts and whisking in between, if the sauce should break apart, you’ll be able to whisk it back together again).

Bring 1 inch water to boil in a steamer. Place asparagus in steamer basket, cover and steam over medium-high heat until asparagus spears are slightly undercooked, about 2-3 minutes for medium spears. Drain and plunge spears immediately into ice water to stop the cooking process. Serve plated with the sauce napped over the tips of the asparagus or on a large serving  platter with the sauce in a gravy boat on the side.

Asparagus with Poached Eggs & Parmesan
Makes 4 servings.

2 pounds asparagus 
cut into 5- to 6-inch lengths
Sea salt, or “fleur de sel”
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil  
Freshly ground black pepper 
4 large fresh farm eggs 

1 cup (lightly packed) parsley leaves
chopped, grated or shaved parmesan at room temperature
truffle shavings (optional)

Cook spears in boiling salted water until just tender, approximately 4 minutes for medium stalks. Remove from heat, drain, and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Divide asparagus among 4 dinner plates and keep warm. In a separate skillet bring about 2 inches of water to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar. (Vinegar helps the egg hold its shape.  Without it, the eggs will become skeins of protein tangling up in the water. Do not add salt, which would loosen the whites.) Break each egg onto a separate small cups. Quickly slip all eggs carefully into simmering water by lowering the lip of each egg cup a half inch below the surface of the water. Let the eggs flow out. Immediately cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Set a timer for exactly three minutes for medium-firm yolks. Lift each perfectly poached egg from the water with a slotted spoon, but hold it over the skillet briefly to let any water clinging to the egg drain off.  Place a warm poached egg on top of each asparagus portion; dab with a paper towel to soak up any visible water. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley and parmesan. Serve immediately. Optional:  Shave a few slices of truffle over the egg with a truffle slicer or a vegetable peeler. The warmth of the egg will release the wonderful aroma of the truffle.

If you have tried any of my recipes let me know how it went at

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