One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus and even though you can find them all year round, its Spring and Summer when I purchase them every week for us to enjoy. I prefer the nice plump ones to the thin ones because I feel that the fatter ones have the most delicious flavor. There are so many great recipes for asparagus that I could post about them for a week, but here’s a few ways we like to enjoy them.
First off, there is grilling with just a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon over top. Simple, easy and perfect for the outdoor dinner.
The most classic way to cook them is to peel them, lop off the extra thick ends and blanch them briefly in boiling salted water. You can serve them immediately or you can refrigerate them and eat them cold with a tangy vinaigrette to dunk the spears in to.
Then of course there is roasting them. Drizzled with a bit of olive oil and salt, roast them on a sheet pan covered with foil in an oven that’s been preheated to 425 degrees for about a half hour or until tender. Roasting the asparagus brings out the sweet essence of the vegetable and is so simple yet so incredibly delightful, you’ll end up eating all of them before they arrive at the table if you are not careful.
Two other ways to enjoy this very versatile vegetable is to encase them in cheese and puff pastry or to batter and fry them. We have enjoyed both ways!
Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 pound asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1 egg yolk + 1 tbs water, beaten to blend
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle being careful to not cut all the way through the dough. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the markings (called Docking) to prevent air bubbles from forming and puffing up the center too much. Bake until a pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove pastry shell from oven, and set aside.
In the meantime, mix the ricotta cheese with the Gruyere, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the cheese mixture over the center of the pastry and arrange the asparagus spears in a single layer over the top alternating the ends and the tips.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash and bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Crispy Fried Asparagus With Ancho Chili Mayo
Ancho Chili Mayo
½ cup mayonnaise *homemade is preferable, but you can use jarred too and not worry about the raw eggs
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. Ancho chili powder
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. hot sauce (Tabasco works nicely)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl combine all of the ingredients and mix until the spices are blended through.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you are making the asparagus to let the flavors meld together. Be sure to taste to see if it spicy or tangy enough for your tastes and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Crispy Fried Asparagus SpearsAdapted from Fine Cooking Magazine’s April/May 2011 Asparagus Fries with Smoked Paprika Aioli.
1 lb. asparagus, rough ends trimmed
½ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 egg whites
2 tbs. cold water
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup plain bread crumbs
3 cups vegetable oil
Cut the asparagus to about 4-5 inches long. (You can save the stalks for another recipe!) If they are very thick you can split them lengthwise.
Create your breading station by laying out three large shallow dishes with rims.
In the first shallow dish, mix the flour, salt and pepper.
In a second shallow dish, combine the egg whites, water, and lemon juice.
In a third shallow dish, mix the Panko bread crumbs, plain bread crumbs, and the lemon zest.
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over a medium flame. If you have a candy thermometer or deep fryer heat the oil to 375 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell if the oil is ready by dropping in a few of the Panko crumbs and if they bubble and rise to the top then the oil is ready.
Divide the asparagus into 4 smaller bunches, first toss them into the flour mixture, shake off the extra, and then dip them into the egg whites, and then into the Panko/ bread crumbs.
Carefully place the asparagus into the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown.
Remove the asparagus from the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.
Repeat the process for the remaining asparagus.
Serve with the Ancho Chili Mayo on the side.