OK... so I'm starting my crazy A-Z blogging challenge today with one of my most favoritist things about spring... ASPARAGUS!
Seriously, asparagus has to be one of the world's most perfect foods. I sometimes wonder if its wonderfulness is magnified by the fact that it's really only available in spring. Well, you can buy it other times of the year, but it's generally flown in from half way around the planet, which makes it both really expensive and not very tasty.
Asparagus is actually a grass and generally you harvest the new sprouts each spring and then let it grow after that to put its energy back into developing a healthy root system. Of course, I only know this from what I've read because my own attempts at growing the stuff have been... um... well let's say a tad bit less than sensational. But they say it's a long term project so I'm not giving up yet.
Anyhow, since both Done by Forty and Debbie requested some simple veggie recipes back when I did my veggie post, I figured I'd share my favorite asparagus recipe - it's in season right now, and it won't be for much longer so don't delay!
Simple Broiled Asparagus
Step 1: Choose the thickest asparagus you can find. One of the challenges in cooking asparagus is getting nice tender shoots. And, counter-intuitively the thicker ones are generally more tender than the super skinny ones. I think this is because the inside is more tender than the skin, so with thick shoots you get a better tender to tough ratio. That's my theory anyhow. Of course, you don't always have a great selection, so be sure to get shoots that aren't all mushy or wilted on top.
Step 2: Use them Quick! Seriously, they go bad really quickly, so don't let them hang out in the fridge for more than a day or two. You can sometimes extend their life by storing them upright in a jar of water (like cut flowers) but you're better off just cooking them within a day or two of bringing them home.
Step 3: Wash them and break off the stems one at a time. In my experience, this is one of the most important steps in preparing good asparagus. It's tempting to cut off the ends or to break them all off at once, but you won't get very good results using this method. If you break them off individually the stalk will naturally break at the right spot, allowing you to discard the tough stuff and cook up only the tender part.
Step 4: (optional) Save the stems to use in making stock. (more on this later...)
Step 5: Lay them out on a cookie sheet or shallow pan... you want them only one or two layers deep if possible. Drizzle olive oil over the top & sprinkle with garlic powder. Stir them about to ensure they're all nicely coated with olive oil.
Step 6: Stick them under the broiler set on low (if your broiler has that setting) for about 5-10 minutes. Watch those suckers like a hawk!! Seriously, you do NOT want to overcook them or they'll get both mushy and tough at the same time - not sure how that's possible, but it seems to be. As soon as you hear the sizzling go check on them. The best way to tell if they're done or not is to taste one. They should be hot all the way through, but still on the crunchy side.
Step 7: When they're mostly done sprinkle them with shredded Parmesan cheese and stick them back under the broiler for another minute or two - just enough to melt the cheese.
Step 8: ENJOY!!!
You should end up with some extra garlic & cheese infused olive oil in the pan. Don't toss it, it's delicious for drizzling over bread or anything else! I often make broiled asparagus & salmon at the same time and the leftover olive oil is wonderful on the salmon.
Here's a real simple meal of broiled asparagus with open faced sandwiches - smoked Gouda on sourdough with tomato slices grilled under the broiler - I drizzled the extra olive oil over the sandwiches and it was delicious!
So tell me... what's your favorite way to prepare asparagus?