I’m as guilty of this as anybody. I used to toss out the cut ends of asparagus.
I’m as guilty of this as anybody. I used to toss out the cut ends of asparagus. They were a gift for my compost heap.
Wrong, wrong. You should slice off the dark spot that was in the ground. Bend each spear and break. The bottom part will be the toughest. It is too tough for quick sauté in butter, but it’s fine cooked and pureed for a fresh asparagus soup.
All this comes to mind as this spring’s asparagus crop from Florida, California and Mexico is reaching our markets.
Vegetable Growers News reports the fresh wholesale price is around 79 cents per pound, up from 73 cents last year. This is due to the severe drought, declining production acreage and a very cold January in Mexico. This means retail prices in the $3 to $3.75 a pound range, usually the lowest of the year and often on special.
Asparagus in cold storage keeps for a year or more. Packages of these usually are labeled “marinated.”
Thicker stems are older, but still usable. Peel the skin and poach them. White asparagus is elevated to gourmet prices and is less bitter and much more tender. It is a favorite in Europe, where asparagus is worshipped as a luxury.
Look for firm, smooth stems and dry tops. Too-old asparagus tops are soft and greasy feeling.
One way to thoroughly enjoy this vegetable is to cut the spears on an angle three inches long. Sauté briefly in butter until they turn bright green (do not cook through) They should be crisp. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing just before eating.
12 asparagus spears, cut into thirds
2 cups half and half
1⁄2 cup chicken broth, canned
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour, heaping
1⁄2 cup white cheese (Monterey Jack) shredded
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Boil the asparagus until soft, about 8 minutes. Drain and place in blender or food processor. Melt butter and add flour. Whisk until a paste forms. Add flour, whisk and cook for 3 minutes. Slowly add half and half, broth and vinegar. Stir well. Add white cheese and stir until melted.
Pour soup over stalks in blender. Puree until smooth. Serve immediately with fried bread croutons.
ROASTED WHITE AND GREEN ASPARAGUS
1 pound each white and green asparagus
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Lemon wedges for garnish
Toss asparagus spears with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet in one layer. Roast 12 minutes at 400 degrees or until just tender. Serve immediately with lemon on the side.
Serves 6 to 8