Asparagus Season is Almost Here!

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 9, 2020

When you were a kid were the food seasons really seasons? Did you have to wait for summer for tomatoes and corn? For fall for apples and chestnuts? For winter for citrus and root veggies? And for spring for asparagus and artichokes?

It seems that with our global economy comes global accessibility year-round to otherwise seasonal food–unless you’re committed to cooking and eating locally. That means that for many of us we can have what we want when we want it, as long as we’re willing to eat food shipped from other countries.

But wasn’t the anticipation of the first of the season produce or seafood or even flowers pretty thrilling? So, here it is March and while I can certainly find asparagus in my local supermarket and Trader Joe’s somehow its appearance at my farmers market or in the display areas for the seasonal produce just makes me happier and more eager to take it home to cook. And it’s almost time!

Back in the day, asparagus was exotic and pricey. At least pricey for my family. I may have first discovered them in their canned form, which is so not a winning introduction. Canned asparagus is overcooked and kind of slimy. But fresh asparagus! Oh, that’s another matter entirely. Especially grilled or broiled.

Now over the years two questions about asparagus persist:

1. Pencil thin or thick? (As if my preferred medium girth weren’t an option.)
2. Eat with your fingers or your fork?

I’d love to know your favorite way to prepare them and hope you’ll share them below. The way I enjoy them the most requires medium girth and a fork at the table–because I cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces. You see, I love them sautéed in olive oil and garlic, before being caramelized by lemon juice, and tossed with toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

This is the simplest of dishes and yet, to me, is all about the asparagus and how well it marries with each of these few ingredients.

Here’s how it goes down: Wash the asparagus and then snap off the tough, woody bottom end. Slice into two-inch pieces (or as close as you can get). Mince a couple of cloves of garlic. Lightly toast a couple of teaspoons of white sesame seeds. Get a nice juicy slice of lemon (I use Meyer lemons from my garden but a conventional lemon is fine, too).

Now pull out your favorite sauté pan and place it on the stove over medium high heat. To be honest, I have a Scanpan wok that I’ve had forever. I rarely use it for Asian cooking (I have a “real” wok for that) but love to sauté veggies in the Scanpan wok because the flat bottom perfectly fits one of my ceramic stove’s front burners and the swooping sides give me more cooking room.

Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and let it heat up a bit, then add the garlic. Once you can smell the garlic’s aroma, add the asparagus. Stir it in to coat with the oil and garlic.

Then be patient and let the asparagus cook for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. It takes about six minutes for the asparagus to show signs of browning. You don’t want it overcooked, just a little seared. Then add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. The garlic will turn into brown bits that actually are delicious, not to mention crunchy. Sprinkle the asparagus with sea salt, then toss in the sesame seeds. Mix well. That’s it. Time to plate it.

Sautéed Asparagus with Garlic, Lemon Juice, and Sesame Seeds
Serves 2

Ingredients
2 dozen medium-width asparagus spears (about a pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Sea salt to taste

Directions
1. Wash and trim the asparagus to remove the woody bottom. Slice into two-inch pieces.
2. Heat a sauté pan over medium high and add minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the asparagus. Stir to coat the asparagus with the oil and garlic. Then let it sit for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. Continue to stir a couple of more times until the asparagus starts to brown–about six minutes.
3. Add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt and stir in the sesame seeds. Serve.

What spring food are you waiting, waiting, waiting for? And how do you love to prepare asparagus?

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