Thursday, April 21, 2016

Another Take On Asparagus

Asparagus is the star  of the Spring season as it was mentioned last week here, It's is popular in a variety of dishes. The stalks really are versatile, being perfect in crepes or as a stir fry.

David Tanis knows this and wrote about them in his column A City Kitchen in yesterday's New York Times Food section . This is the height of the asparagus season on the East Coast. This is when the stalks taste the best and have the best texture. Should foodies eat  the Peruvian ones  or the west Coast ones from Southern California and Mexico available all year round?.Yes, if the craving is that strong but Mr. Tanis advises waiting.The stalks will taste better and be that much more satisfying as the season rolls in.There is also the problem of jet lag, meaning the veggies may be picked fresh , but as we all know that freshness only lasts for a short period.What do raw talks look like? The spears should be smooth and glossy with  tightly closed tips. The bottom ends should look just cut too. This means the asparagus is fresh.As with any cut green, that freshness needs to be maintained until cooking. Advocates recommend standing the spears upright in the fridge in an inch of cold water, similar to what you'd do with cut flowers. The best bet is cooking the asparagus the day you buy it. The fresh  taste won't be diminished then.

Asparagus  spears come in three widths: pencil thin, medium and jumbo.If you go for the ultra skinny remember to cut it into two inch lengths and either saute or stir fry. The thicker ones are better steamed or grilled, roasted or simmered. These are the most versatile to work with .If you do opt for the fatter ones, remember that they need to be peeled.It's beneficial for cooking and for a more silkier texture. Medium or thin ones don;t need this extra process. White asparagus, also popular right now always needs peeling.Cut off or snap off  tough bottoms. If home chefs choose the latter then they should hold their hands towards the bottom end of the stalks or too much will be discarded. Be warned. Stalks can snap in the middle if the technique is carelessly done.The main thing , no matter the size or cooking method, is to make sure the spears are properly cooked. Keep them bright green and firm.As Mr. Tanis advises it's better to keep them underdone, residual heat will cause them to continue cooking as they get lifted out. The recipes are stuffing them into buckwheat crepes, stir frying them with walnuts and butter braising them. The last recipe is probably the best way to enjoy them, There's also lemon juice and fresh herbs such as  dill, parsley, tarragon and chervil to bring out the sweet earthiness.

Take advantage of asparagus season while it's here. Now is the time to enjoy those tender , fresh Springy stalks. Make them any way , just to relish that greenness.

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