I love this time of year. These sweet, succulent asparagus spears bring joy to me every spring. Did you know Asparagus is a member of the Lily family? They grow as spears and under ideal conditions can grow 10" in a 24-hour period. Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer. Asparagus is also one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. Low calories, low sodium, high in vitamins. If you want to see more info about asparagus, check out this.
I can remember back to the days when my grandmother would open a can, plop an unattractive army-green color substance onto a plate and pop it in the microwave. She would serve it up with mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon. Not exactly gourmet, but poor Nana also didn’t live in Northern California where our produce is far beyond excellence. Try substituting her version with fresh spears steamed or sautéed and accompanied with Meyer lemons and/or a spicy garlic aioli. Now that’s Californian! But I can't help but block the memory from my mind when my mother served asparagus to me when I was not even 3 years old of age. I chewed and chewed and chewed, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get my molars to tear the asparagus into two swallows. I ended up swallowing the first half while the second half was still in my mouth, but attached to the half sliding down my throat by the fibers. Well, this caused a gagging and eye-watering experience, but still I have managed to forgive the brutality once given to asparagus in my upbringing and give it rebirth in the west coast.
There are innumerable ways to prepare asparagus. Steam, poach, fry, sauté, raw, . . . what? Raw?! Yes. In the right season, asparagus can also be enjoyed raw with its natural sweetness and crispy texture. I’m not talking about taking a spear and munching on it like a carrot. That would be odd, and fibrous. Try peeling the asparagus and making shavings for a salad. Check out this simple recipe that follows for a raw asparagus salad:
First you must snap off the butt of the spear to get rid of the inedible woody end. Simply hold the asparagus toward the bottom like you’re going to break a chicken wishbone. Snap the bottom part of the spear off. It will break where is naturally wants to. Discard the ends or you can save them for soup.
Next, grab your trusty peeler and take a hold of the asparagus spear from where you just made your break. Peel, starting from the bottom, up to and through the top. You will have a beautiful pale green and slightly translucent ribbon of asparagus. Peel/shave the whole spear. Each piece will yield 5-6 shavings, of course depending on the size of the asparagus. (I wouldn’t recommend using “pencil” size asparagus for this application.) Once you’ve shaved 3-4 spears you will be left with a big nest of curly asparagus peelings. Toss the shavings into a bowl along with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of salt, a crack of black pepper, and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Coat all the peelings in this “vinaigrette”, taking the whole pile out of the bowl and onto a salad plate. Shave some Parmesan on top and there you have a wonderful, fresh, and crisp asparagus salad! For a more composed salad, throw some toasted almonds or hazlenuts in with orange segments.