Asparagus

Asparagus

I have a confession: for the last couple of weeks, I've been having asparagus for dinner almost every other night.

I am a firm believer in the sense of this kind of seasonal "binging". Sure, we can get asparagus year-round now, but they are really at their best right now, not to mention at their cheapest. Admittedly most of the asparagus we're getting here right now is still imported, but it's still half the price of what it is in other months, and so I'm indulging.

Before I came to live here in Switzerland, the only way I knew to cook asparagus was to the so-called crisp-tender stage. My favorite way of eating asparagus was simply to stir fry it. But then, I encountered the more Middle European way of cooking asparagus, which is to cook it until it's quite soft. I'd also never seen white asparagus before coming here (well, they had it I guess at NYC gourmet mega-markets like Balducci's, but they never registered in my culinaric vision). White asparagus is indeed more delicate than green, and is really suited to the soft-cooking method, or best of all as the base for cream of asparagus soup.

Currently I have two favorite ways of cooking and eating asparagus. The first, an asparagus and egg sandwich, can be made with white or green asparagus. This sandwich is one of those offered by Sprüngli, a patisserie / chocolatier chain that's probably the best of the best in Switzerland. The second, grilled or baked asparagus with balsamic vinegar, is nouveau-Mediterranean / trendy, and needs green asparagus. It's adapted from the book that's in the sidebar, The Best (it's a recipe from Sylvana Franco). This makes great crisp-tender stalks with slightly crispy tops that go with just about anything you might serve for dinner, but especially with roast chicken. Both recipes are amazingly easy, but as with all simple recipes they rely on having the best ingredients you can get.

Asparagus and egg sandwich

To make two sandwiches

  • 10 perfect white or green asparagus spears
  • 3 large, fresh eggs, preferably organic
  • The best quality mayonnaise you can find. Homemade is best, but that makes this rather more complicated.
  • Softened butter
  • 2 whole-grain or sourdough rolls (but not overly sour, and not the sweet wholegrain type. If you can't find a non-sweet whole-grain roll, a piece of a baguette will do.

Ruthlessly cut off the ends of the asparagus so that you are left with stalks about the length of your roll. Cook the asparagus in very gently simmering salted water until quite tender - the spears should be rather floppy. Drain and let cool. (Optionally you can lightly sprinkle them with white wine vinegar.)

In the meantime, boil the eggs to the just-hardboiled stage. To do this, put the eggs into cold water, bring to a gentle boil, turn the heat off then put the lid on and leave for 10 minutes. Drain, and cool off the eggs in cold water. Peel carefully.

Cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Spread very thinly with the butter. Spread on both sides rather generously with mayonnaise. Slice the eggs, and lay out on one side of the rolls. At this point you can optionally add a bit more mayonnaise. Carefully arrange the asparagus on top. The spear ends can peek out a bit from the edge of the roll. Cap with the other half of the roll.

Eat immediately.

Grilled/baked asparagus with balsamic vinegar

  • A standard supermarket bunch of green asparagus
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Raw or brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200° C / 425° F or so (hot but not the hottest), or turn on the grill.

Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the tough ends, and lightly peeling the ends with a vegetable peeler. You want the stalk ends to look like halfway sharpened pencils. Line them up in a baking pan, preferably lined with a teflon baking sheet. (The sugar and vinegar tend to make the pan a bit sticky afterwards.)

Sprinkle the asparagus lightly with the salt, and sugar. How much sugar? Just a couple of pinches; you don't want them to be sugar-coated, just to have a hint of the sweetness.(The original recipe calls for white sugar but I find that raw, or coarse brown / unprocessed sugar, is even better with the balsamic vinegar.)

Sprinkle very sparingly with the balsamic vinegar. You don't want to douse the asparagus with it. To do this, place your thumb over the bottle mouth to control the sprinke rate.

Put a little melted butter or extra virgin olive oil over the asparagus - again, you only want a little. Butter makes it taste a bit sweeter, while olive oil makes it a bit more savory. Both work well. (The original recipe uses butter.)

Bake for 10 minutes or grill for about 8 minutes, turning a couple of times. If you bake the asparagus will be a bit softer, and grilling makes them more crunch and slightly charred. (The original recipe calls for baking them.)

Put on plates and spoon over any leftover liquid in the pan over them. Serve immediately. These are fun to eat with your fingers.

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Asparagus

I have often broiled asparagus just with olive oil. Now I can't wait to try this method. It sounds wonderful.

Do you like the fat spears of the skinny? I am a fan of the big fat ones.

Sue | 2 April, 2005 - 20:17

Asparagus

I'm most definitely having an asparagus moment as well, I find that I want to do them justice by making hollandaise to go with it - but often a shaving of pecorino or paremsan and olive oil is just enough. Yum!

Gloria Vagrant Appetite | 3 April, 2005 - 22:17

Asparagus

Hi, I live in Belgium (Europe)and I would like to share with you the way we eat asparagus (the white ones):
boiled in salted water, soft (but not too soft) each person has two hardboiled eggs on his (warm) plate, you cut and "mash"(? with a fork) the eggs, pour some melted butter on them, add pepper, salt, nutmeg and finely chopped parsley, mix well, add some more butter and eat this mixture with your asparagus. I love it

Jan | 4 April, 2005 - 01:14

Asparagus

Well, Maki, I gave it a try with the balsamic etc, green asparagus, baked. It was good but I thought all the flavors detracted a bit. I guess I am just a fan of that pure springy asparagus flavor.

Suebob | 4 April, 2005 - 06:07

Asparagus

Sue, i think i usually prefer the thick asparagus because it's more "inside" which i think is the best part. Though for stir-frying the thin ones are better.

Jan I do like it with egg too! Asparagus and eggs or eggy sauce, like hollandaise, go together so well..

maki | 4 April, 2005 - 08:35

Asparagus

Oh, I wish I had not seen this post! I grew up in Southern Germany and we always got white asparagus fresh from the farmer. I did not live in the Asparagus producing region proper so you had to know someone who would get you some and it only was available for a limited time. It was alwayss eaten the same day it came out of the ground. Cooked, (and I don't like it too mushy) drizzled with some butter and maybe bundled in a thin slice of ham. With a nice glas of wine. heaven. Oh dear, I won't be able to stop thinking about this all day.

But isn't it a bit early for asparagus? Green asparagus is very different, and none of the white asparagus I see here in NYC looks really fresh.

pickles | 6 April, 2005 - 18:10

Asparagus

Oh, I wish I had not seen this post! I grew up in Southern Germany and we always got white asparagus fresh from the farmer. I did not live in the Asparagus producing region proper so you had to know someone who would get you some and it only was available for a limited time. It was alwayss eaten the same day it came out of the ground. Cooked, (and I don't like it too mushy) drizzled with some butter and maybe bundled in a thin slice of ham. With a nice glas of wine. heaven. Oh dear, I won't be able to stop thinking about this all day.

But isn't it a bit early for asparagus? Green asparagus is very different, and none of the white asparagus I see here in NYC looks really fresh.

pickles | 6 April, 2005 - 18:11

Asparagus

Ooooh must get some asparagus this weekend! I LOVE BBQed asparagus as well as the different methods you guys mentioned!

Mmmmmmmm so tasty!

Vero | 7 April, 2005 - 22:26

Asparagus

hi maki
I love asparagus too! My favourite way is to eat it with mayonnaise or mix it with some miso. :-) Gonna give the egg and asparagus sandwich a try when asparagus is in season here in Australia! It sounds yum.
How does white asparagus taste like? I saw them at the fruit market here but I never thought about giving it a try.

pinkcocoa | 9 April, 2005 - 15:07

Asparagus

I served baked asparagus with basalmic vinegar with grilled pork chops and a simple risotto this weekend. I'm glad that I followed your advice to sprinkle sugar, vinegar and oil all very lightly. The results were tender-crisp, barely browned and subtly sweet. Even the doubters in my family were impressed.

Michele | 13 April, 2005 - 07:04

Asparagus

Heck I GROW my own asparagus here in Virginia and yes it's coming on something fierce (I had stalks popping up as early as February -- it's the confused warm weather here this year and a cold snap did the early birds in but they came back when it warmed up and the little bit of snow we cgot melted and watered them). I have been picking spears every day since the last week of March.

To get white asparagus, you cover the emerging stalks with straw (or something that doesn't permit the light to get through). Since it's labor intensive, it's why white asparagus costs more and isn't available but for the briefest period of time.

I am fond of asparagus cooked stir-fry style in a bit of chicken stock, corn starch, soy sauce and with straw mushrooms thrown in at the last minute (you may have to cut the fatter spears in half lengthwise for more uniform cooking. I also like asparagus wrapped with thin strips of beef round steak marinated in soy sauce and rice wine garlic and ginger that you throw on the grill and then serve with a soy sauce rice vinegar and ginger dipping sauce. Enjoy it while you can!

ShenValley VA USA | 26 April, 2006 - 18:18

Asparagus

I am also addicted to asparagus, very addicted!!! I've tried a new method and maybe you are interested: Just take a bunch of green asparagus (ready - prepared to cook), put it on a sheet of parchement paper, sprinkle over a little fleur de sel, a little olive oil, some small pieces of butter, a little tarragon, a little oregano, persil, chives, some cress (all greens fresh and roughly chopped), a little pepper, some squeezes of lime juice. Afterwards fold and close the paper over the bunch (en papilotte)- finally you'll get something like a parcel. Put the parcel in the oven 350 F for 25 min. Serve with poarched eggs an new small potatoes. You can have a look at the recipe and picture in my blog (sorry german language only, maybe I should prepare an english version too
http://schokolatajaja.blogg.de/index.php?tag=06&monat=4&jahr=2005

kaba | 25 April, 2005 - 00:22

Asparagus

Wrap some bacon around five or so spears and roast it in a hot oven or on the grill. DELICIOUS!

Jean | 28 April, 2005 - 17:42

Asparagus

asparagus season? urine trouble.. i love prosciutto wrapped steamed spears, and hollaindaise and the sugar sea salt and vinegar... asparagus is very trendy in the southern states and has been a staple throughout my formative years... the old folks like to serve it because they "remember a time when aspargrass only came in cans"..

yourfavoriterin | 29 April, 2005 - 06:54

Asparagus

mmmm...there's absolutely nothing wrong with having asparagus at every meal! My favourite metod is to cook it birefly in a saute pan with a lemon squeezed over, a little salt and a knob of butter. The lemon juice and butter kind of migngle and the juice reduces. It's lovely and tangy.

Lyn | 14 May, 2005 - 01:43

Asparagus

Spargel ist ein königlisches Gemüse.

Counter | 15 June, 2005 - 09:32

Asparagus

Thank you for the resources. Keep up the good work!

Shopping | 17 July, 2005 - 18:29
Mary | 26 September, 2005 - 22:41

Asparagus

Does anyone else know other ways to prepare white asparagus. My host mother in Pamplona made the most delicious white asparagus I had ever tasted, but all I ever learned was how to peel the vegetables. I believe she put vinegar on the stalks after cooking them, boiling perhaps. But they weren't sweet. They were more sour vinegary. I think she may have put minced onion or garlic on it as well. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Melissa | 21 October, 2005 - 23:36

Asparagus

hi @ all
I love asparagus ! Its ASPARAGUS TIME ;-) hmmm with butter and fresh herbs. But the urin.... ;(

Lisa | 7 April, 2006 - 12:07

Re: Asparagus

I am a diabetic. I don't know for sure but when I eat aspargrass my sugar is low the next morning.

Harry | 4 February, 2009 - 16:40

Re: Asparagus

I love half cook asparagus. I like the crunch and its health goodness. thank you

ahmz | 1 December, 2010 - 08:32

Re: Asparagus

wow the idea of the guy from Belgium doesn't sound bad at all! i really think i gonna try that one!! :PP
you know i'm from germany and except some things we don't have very good traditional food here xD most time we eat things, coming from other lands x) so
thanks for that idea, gonna try it!
greetings from germany!

realphil | 16 February, 2011 - 13:30

Re: Asparagus

I love asparagus salad from white asparagus. The green asparagus I love cooked only. Greetings from Dresden in Germany. Vanessa

Vanessa from Dresden | 27 February, 2011 - 00:00

Re: Asparagus

Best salad I had ever. I really love it! Thx for the great tips.

Jens | 19 February, 2012 - 04:38

Re: Asparagus

Hi, nice information. I feel inspired. Nice regards

Maria Scoobi | 9 July, 2012 - 11:11

your site

great site,
nice i found it :-)
thanks a lot and just the best wishes for the future :-)

Tilda

Tilda | 7 August, 2012 - 17:21

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