“Rich, Rich, Rich
March 8, 2010
By Donna Pierce
I don’t keep a census count of robins returning to the neighborhood park. You won’t
find me searching for signs of spring in a flower bed or checking off calendar dates.
As far as I’m concerned, winter officially ends and spring begins in the produce section of the supermarket when asparagus shipments multiply and the price for slender (and thicker) stalks sharply decline to offer once-a-year bargains.
For approximately eight weeks, while I’m feeling asparagus-wealthy, tender stalks make their way to my table daily. At the beginning of the season I steam or roast them to enjoy as a side dish, doused with fresh lemon juice or sprinkled with feta cheese.
Once I’ve eaten my way through the initial thrill, I progress to sauces, tarts, stir-fry dishes, frittatas and even old-fashioned tea sandwiches made up of roasted spears pressed in to buttered rolls.
No recipe from my collection is exempt, and except for desserts, I’ve never run across a recipe that couldn’t be made more delicious to my taste with an asparagus tip or two.
Asparagus spears are native to Europe. The name comes from the Greek asparagos,
meaning “to swell”.
The plant is a shoot vegetable, classified with artichokes, hearts of palm, endive and celery.
Select tightly budded young green spears of the same dimension — pencil thin or fat.
Cook like sizes together so they will steam or roast evenly.
Spears snap off at a natural breaking point. Trim
thicker stalks with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife by holding the stalk
with the buds pointing downward and peeling toward the tender tip.
Steam asparagus in a vegetable steamer or boil uncovered in a heavy skillet of simmering water. They will cook to an al dente stage in six to eight minutes.
Roast asparagus in a 400 degree oven on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cook, turning occasionally, until tender and tips begin to bronze.