New ingredients are coming into peak season pretty fast and furious these days — how are we already getting succulent and sweet corn? — but we aren't quite ready to bid adieu to some of our favorite spring ingredients yet. Fortunately we still have some time left for asparagus.
What it is:
Asparagus is a member of the Lily family. Asparagus spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period. Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food which in high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. There are over three hundred species of asparagus, but three types are most common: green,
white and purple. White asparagus
is simply green asparagus that lacks green chlorophyll because it’s grown covered with soil – as the it grows dirt is continuously mounded around the stalk, depriving it of light. It’s less bitter than the green variety. Purple asparagus is different varietal altogether — it has a high sugar and low fiber content.. The color is due to the same cancer-fighting phytochemical found in blueberries. Fun fact about asparagus: Roman emperors maintained special asparagus fleets to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire.
How to use it:
One of the things that we love about asparagus is how versatile it is — you can steam, roast, grill, boil it — or serve it thinly shaved, raw
What some chefs are doing with it right now:
Says Harold Dieterle of Perilla and Kin Shop, both in NYC "I’m a big fan of asparagus. With a mild sweetness, they take well to so many types of cooking and I think best with acidic flavors. I like to grill them, roast them, blanch them, or even stir-fry them. At Perilla I’m making a salad with asparagus topped with a sieved egg, cornichons, baby greens, and a lemon emulsion. It’s a fresh salad that is very much a spring time dish."
At Salinas, also in New York, asparagus features in a spring gazpacho, salads, and a Duo de cordero; Braised baby lamb shank & spicy sausage, grilled spring vegetables (ramps and white asparagus), green garlic, local potato puree, romesco & salsa verde. At il Buco Alimentari, Chef Justin Smillie features a ramp and asparagus frittata on the new breakfast menu.
At MANA food bar in Chicago, asparagus is a feature of the current menu, grilled and served over miso mustard sauce and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. And in Cleveland, we had an amazingly uber-spring dish of ramp-wrapped local asparagus at Jonathan Sawyer's The Greenhouse Tavern.
What's your favorite prep?