Friday, April 15, 2016

That Spring Favorite Asparagus

There are a lot of harbingers of Spring. The first robin, lighter clothing, picnics and asparagus. The last is everywhere now, indicating a time for lighter cooking and lighter eating. It's a wonderful side for any Spring holiday dinner as well as a nice accompaniment to any salad. Best of all it's versatile, going from a supporting player to star with ease.

Asparagus is an ancient plant with the Egyptians first planting it 3,000 (!) years ago.It was also big with the ancient Syrians and Spanish.The Greeks and Romans ate it fresh while in season and then dried it for fall and winter cooking.In fact the last could be credited it for turning it into the first frozen food. Legions of Romans soldiers, under Emperor Augustus, hauled it to the Italian Alps to be frozen. They were dubbed "The Asparagus Fleet". The emperor even coined the phrase "faster than cooking asparagus" for quick action and it was one of the earliest recipes from Apicus.It fell out of favor during the Medieval Period but was a favorite again  of the French court. Louis XIV's mistress Madame du Pompadour to nickname them "love tips" and to make them trendy again in french dining rooms. Asparagus is high in the B vitamins, namely folate which makes it a great dish for expectant women who need the vitamin on a daily basis.The stalks are extremely high in Vitamins A and K along with being an excellent source of calcium.Unfortunately there is a side effect, namely
 strong smelling urine. How ever this is a small price to pay , considering all the benefits asparagus has to offer

It is in season now and ready to be turned into a variety of dishes. There is a caveat for home chefs. Try to get tender baby stalks. They become very woody and hard to chew as they get older.White asparagus, vastly popular in Germany and the rest of Northern a little more tender but has the sale delicate, fresh taste as its' green cousin. One of my favorite recipes is simply boiling the stalks in salt water until tender for about five to ten minutes and  then drizzling them with melted butter or margarine followed by a heavy dusting of Parmesan cheese. Both are perfect in complimenting the stalk's fresh green sweetness. Asparagus can also be grilled.Marinade them first, usually in a lemon-olive oil marinade before putting over a low fire.It goes great with any grilled meat  from beef to chicken to even fish . The grilled stalks can also be cut into one inch pieces and added to a salad. Quiches get an extra  boost of sweetness and  freshness by adding a cup or two to the recipe. The veggie pairs surprisingly well with bacon, with each bringing out the other's flavor. Parmesan cheese can also be added for even more flavor.

Make asparagus a part of Spring cooking and eating. The stalks will go well with any roast or as the main player in a quiche or salad. Try them to experiences their fresh, green goodness!

No comments: