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  • The Chopping Blog

Asparagus Every Which Way but Steamed, Roasted or Grilled

Shelley
Posted by Shelley on May 4, 2023

 

It is that time of year again: asparagus season! Perhaps this time of year has lost some of its luster, some of its connection with the long-awaited Spring in the Midwest, since we can get asparagus all year long now. Unlike the poor tomato, which is such a shadow of itself in the dead of winter, asparagus is pretty tasty all year long. Even though asparagus’ natural growing season is incredibly short, it is cultivated somewhere around the globe all year long. There is never a time these days you can’t go to your local grocery store and get a tasty and tender asparagus spear. Even so, it’s time to celebrate the very short and special asparagus season.

Locally Grown MI AsparagusI grew up hunting wild asparagus with my mother, and it was something we looked forward to all year long. I didn’t even know that people grew asparagus as I had only ever tasted and seen wild asparagus. I thought it only came from ditches and off the side of the old dusty gravel roads I lived on. I never saw asparagus in the grocery store growing up, not even during asparagus season. Although we can buy decent asparagus all year long now, there is nothing like asparagus picked local and brought home to cook within days of its harvest. The texture and intensity of flavor is something to be celebrated!

Wild asparagusVegetables are a true passion of mine. When I was a kid, we lived on an acreage and grew most of the food we ate. I could roam our property on my own with no worries - my grandparents lived on one side of our house and my great grandparents on the other. I was notorious for digging the potatoes, turnips or carrots right out of the ground and eating them. I would grab a musk melon or an ear of sweet corn right off the stalk and eat it right there in the garden. If you can believe it, I would get in trouble for ruining my lunch or dinner by eating the vegetables and fruit right of the garden! Vegetables are still the first thing I eat on my plate, and I could probably own a cooking school solely focused on vegetables.

Trio of Asparagus DishesI love the taste of vegetables, but I also love that vegetables provide so many opportunities to be creative compared to meats, seafood and starches. The longer I have been cooking, the more convinced I am that meat should be in the background on the plate, served in small quantities, perfectly cooked and simply seasoned. I think rice, pasta and grains can certainly be seasoned in limitless ways but only vegetables can truly be transformed visually and texturally in a thousand ways.

So I wanted to highlight a few ways you can transform asparagus outside the normal grilling, steaming and roasting methods. It doesn’t necessarily require a whole new set of recipes to transform your vegetables. When you cut and cook your vegetables in new ways, they can take on a whole new life, new tastes and new textures. Potatoes are a vegetable, and I think the easiest example of my theory is to think about some of its classic preparations: French fries, mashed potatoes, potato chips, scalloped potatoes and baked potatoes are all just potatoes simply cut and cooked in different methods. Try applying this concept to your vegetables!

Frenched Asparagus

Frenched Asparagus

Yield: 4 approximately 1/2 cup servings

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

 

1 bunch fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Seasonings:

  • Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • Butter or drizzle of olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Fresh dill, tarragon or basil

Roasting Cherry TomatoesStep 1: Clean Asparagus

Snap asparagus ends off; they will naturally break where the tender part and tough part meet.

Wild asparagus can be much dirtier than commercially grown asparagus, especially if the asparagus tips are more open than closed. When the tips start to open slightly, they can hold a good amount of dirt so I like to rinse the asparagus and then soak it in cold water for a good 10 minutes. I like to do this in the sink so I can use ample water and the dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink.

Rinse the asparagus once more after you take it out of the soaking water.

Step 2: French the Asparagus

There are many varieties of bean Frenchers you can purchase online. I love using these, they make quick work out of Frenching green beans and asparagus. Simply pull the asparagus spear through the Frencher.

 

Step 3: Sauté

Heat a sauté pan to medium high and add the olive oil and asparagus. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, just until they start to wilt.

Saute French AsparagusStep 4: Season

Season with salt and pepper and leave it at that or you may want to add an additional drizzle of olive oil or a pat of butter. Try roasting some cherry tomatoes to garnish the asparagus with and or a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a splash of lemon.

Frenched Asparagus with Tomato

“Pea’d” Asparagus

Pead Asparagus BowlYield: 4 Approximately ½ cup servings

Hands on time: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

 

1 bunch fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional Seasonings:

  • Shallots, scallions or garlic
  • Fresh, basil, mint or tarragon
  • Pat of butter
  • Lemon zest and or juice

 

Step 1: Clean Asparagus

Snap asparagus ends off; they will naturally break where the tender part and tough part meet.

Wild asparagus can be much dirtier than commercially grown asparagus especially if the asparagus tips are more open than closed. When the tips start to open slightly, they can hold a good amount of dirt so I like to rinse the asparagus and then soak it in cold water for a good 10 minutes. I like to do this in the sink so I can use ample water and the dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink.

Rinse the asparagus once more after you take it out of the soaking water.

Sink of AsparagusStep 2: Cut Asparagus

Cut the asparagus spears into small coins about the size of peas

Step 3: Sauté Asparagus

Heat a sauté pan to medium high and add the olive oil and asparagus. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, just until tender.

Sauteed Pead AsparagusStep 4: Season

Season with salt and pepper. You may want to sauté some shallots, scallions or garlic with your asparagus. You can add an additional drizzle of olive oil or a pat of butter. Sprinkle of fresh herbs and or a little lemon zest and a splash of lemon

Pead Asparagus with Lemon

 

Fried Asparagus

Fried AsparagusThis is an incredibly special recipe to me. I have never had it anywhere or seen anyone prepare asparagus like this other than my mother. If we harvested enough asparagus, she would stay in the kitchen and cook it all night long, we would eat it as fast as she could make it. It comes out almost like a tempura, light and crispy. She also made eggplant in this same method.

Yield: 4 servings, but I can eat the whole batch!

Hands on Time: 20 minutes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

 

1 bunch of asparagus

1 cup of flour

1 teaspoon fine sea salt (coarse salt won’t adhere properly)

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon of black or white pepper

1 cup grapeseed oil, maybe more

Optional Seasonings:

  • Sweet soy, ponzu or teriyaki sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Green onions
  • Sesame oil

 

Step 1: Clean Asparagus

Snap asparagus ends off; they will naturally break where the tender part and tough part meet.

Wild asparagus can be much dirtier than commercially grown asparagus especially if the asparagus tips are more open that closed. When the tips start to open slightly, they can hold a good amount of dirt so I like to rinse the asparagus and then soak it in cold water for a good 10 minutes. I like to do this in the sink so I can use ample water and the dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink.

Rinse the asparagus once more after you take it out of the soaking water.

Step 2: Heat the Pan

Heat a deep wide skillet over a medium high heat. Once hot, add the oil and heat to medium high heat.

Step 3: Fry Asparagus

Do not dry the asparagus after you wash it, take it right out of the sink and dredge it in the flour while the asparagus is still wet. The water is what adheres the flour to the asparagus. If the asparagus happened to dry out, just run it under water before dredging.

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper and dredge each asparagus in the flour. Try and evenly coat the asparagus but don’t worry that it is entirely coated with flour - a light dredging gives a light crispy coating.

Add the asparagus to the hot oil as your dredge it. Keep space in between each spear, it will crisp and cook more evenly if you do not overcrowd the pan.

Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, turn the spears over and cook the other side about 2 to 3. It wont really brown so don’t look for that as a sign of being done. Place on a paper towel when done to absorb some of the oil.

Frying AsparagusStep 4: Season

Taste a spear to see if it is seasoned enough, if needed sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. A very fine salt is helpful here as kosher salt will not adhere to the spear.

If you feel like getting fancy sprinkle with a little sweet soy, drizzle of sesame oil or sesame seeds and a few green onions. You can also serve your favorite dipping sauce with these crunchy spears.

Seasoned Fried AsparagusI hope you found some vegetable inspiration in these ideas. Vegetable recipes do not need to be complicated to add some pizazz to a meal. When you are chopping your vegetables the next time, simply think, how can I chop them differently? What different cooking technique can I use? Maybe I can cream my asparagus? Maybe I can make a gratin out of this asparagus? All of these techniques can spice up the plethora of spring and summer vegetables heading our way.

Our Knife Skills class is a great way to learn and improve those knife skills. We dive deep into vegetables in our Culinary Boot Camp, Vegetarian Boot Camp as well as our upcoming chef demonstrations at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market, which will begin in June.  

See our class calendar

Topics: vegetable, vegetarians, vegetarian, asparagus, vegetables, veggies, vegetarian boot camp

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