The most wonderful time of the year!

Posted in Food on May 24, 2010

No, not the holiday season.  Not even baseball season!  It’s…. asparagus season!  It’s the hap-happiest season of all! 

I wait all year for asparagus to have its brief, shining moment of glory.  It seemed to take forever this year.  We had a harsh winter and a cold spring and there were some days that felt like asparagus, and the sun, would never come back.  Oh, the weather outside was frightful.

But, for the last two weeks, I’ve been seeing glimpses of the greenish purple-y stalks everywhere.  At the grocery store, at the vegetable stands, on my dinner plate.  Asparagus is here.  Repeat the sounding joy!

When asparagus is fresh and at its peak, you don’t really need to do much to it.  We love it simply drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt and pepper and roasted in a hot oven for just a few minutes.  These are a few fun recipes for when you want to dress your asparagus up a bit.  Right now it’s fresh, plentiful and very reasonably priced.  From now on, our troubles will be miles away!

 Grilled asparagus with pasta and tuna

 Serves 2 for a big lunch

1 bunch asparagus (approximately 6-7 large spears and 10-12 small spears)
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
250g-300g dried pasta
1 can tuna in spring water
1 lemon

To prepare your asparagus, you’ll need to get rid of the tough, woody ends.  You can do this by bending the asparagus stalk in half.  Where it naturally breaks is where the stalk is tough.  Throw away the woody bottoms and wash and dry the tops. 

Begin this recipe by placing a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Add the pasta when the water is boiling.  Drain the pasta when it’s still a bit al dente.  You’re going to be cooking the pasta for a few more minutes in the pan with the sauce, so you don’t want it over cooked. 

Then, heat a grill pan (or an actual grill if you don’t live in a little city apartment like me) over medium heat and drizzle your cleaned asparagus with a little olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  You could also add a few chilli flakes if you’d like.  Place the asparagus on the grill in one layer.  You might have to grill in batches if you’re making this for a crowd.  Turn your asparagus over at least once to make sure it grills evenly.  When the asparagus has cooked through (test it by sticking it with a fork- it should be mostly soft with a slight bite) remove it from the grill

Whilst your asparagus is grilling, warm a small pan over low heat.  Add a little bit of olive oil- only about a tbs.  Finely chop one shallot and two cloves of garlic and add these to the pan with the olive oil.  Allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the shallot is soft.  Drain the liquid from the can of tuna and add the tuna to the pan with the shallots.  Stir and cook together for 3-4 minutes.

Add the drained, cooked pasta and the asparagus spears.  You may want to chop the asparagus spears into chunks if they are too big. 

Toss together and sprinkle with a bit more olive oil if the pasta looks too dry.  Squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into the pan and toss again.  Serve!

 Roasted asparagus with hollandaise sauce on toast

 Serves two as a starter

1 ½ bunches of asparagus (you could go ahead and cook two whole bunches and just eat the leftovers with your fingers!)
2 egg yolks
1 dessert spoon lemon juice
1 dessert spoon white wine vinegar
110g butter
2 slices thick white bread
olive oil

As described in the recipe above, prepare the asparagus.

Preheat your oven to 350F (200C, gas mark 5.)  Line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Place the prepared asparagus onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with about a tsp of olive oil (more if you have very thick stalks of asparagus) and a little salt and pepper.  Place in the oven to roast for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Then pour the yolks into a food processor or blender and blend on a low speed for about a minute.  Turn the blender off.

While the egg yolks are blending, place the vinegar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over a medium heat.  Allow the liquid to cook until it is reduced by about half- you’ll end up with about one dessert spoon of liquid.  Place this liquid in a jug with a spout.  I have a measuring cup with a spout and so I used that.

Once you’ve put the vinegar / lemon juice liquid into a jug with a spout, put the same saucepan back on the heat and add the butter to that pan.  Allow the butter to melt, but not to brown.

Whilst the butter is melting, turn the motor of the food processor or blender back on.  Then SLOWLY, in a very thin stream, pour the warm vinegar / lemon juice liquid into the blender.  You’re trying to blend the yolks with this hot liquid, but not to cook the yolks.  Adding too much liquid too quickly will curdle the eggs. 

Once you’ve poured all the vinegar / lemon juice mixture into the blender or food processor.  Turn off the motor.  Then, pour the melted butter into the same jug with a spout.  Now turn the motor back on and again SLOWLY pour in the butter in a very thin stream.  Keep the motor running until all of the melted butter has been incorporated into the mixture.  Then turn it off and taste the sauce for seasoning.

Once your hollandaise is complete, you can take your asparagus out of the oven.  Then toast your slices of white bread.  Arrange the spears of asparagus on top of the toast and drizzle with the hollandaise sauce.  Heavenly with a cold glass of white wine.

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3 Responses to “ The most wonderful time of the year! ”

  1. # 1 nancy Says:

    OH MY! I loved asparagus I am CRAZY about it! It’s 1 thing I “gave up” after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (&bananas).But tis the season so I think I will! Thanks for the recipes to get me started!

  2. # 2 Fiona Says:

    God i love these babies. Did I tell you I saw it growing wild recently here in NL? Weird sight indeed.

  3. # 3 Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial Says:

    Asparagus season is soooo far away right now! It’s raining and thundering and winter has just started. We have some seedlings to put into the garden this year, so in about three years time we’ll have our first shoots to harvest. In the meantime, I can feast on lovely blog posts like yours.. :)

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