More good news for those of us who love to eat: Local asparagus is appearing in our grocery stores now. It is easy to prepare — simply sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven or grill for a delicious caramelized vegetable dish. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Local asparagus is appearing in grocery stores and farmers markets. Barb Randall offers a variety of recipes to enjoy it in different forms.

While that might be delicious, I would hate for you to miss enjoying asparagus in a variety of forms. I sought inspiration from my mavens of culinary magic,

Alice Waters, Julia Child and Martha Stewart, for unique recipes using asparagus.

First, some tips on what to look for when buying asparagus. In the early spring you can find super thin spears of asparagus — I prefer them to be thicker, about the width of a finger. Spears larger than that are often woody and are best used to make soups or cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and cooked. Look for the freshest specimens with stalks that are strong, smooth and bright green in color (unless, of course, you are buying white asparagus). The heads should be compact and tight; if they are elongated or starting to separate it means the asparagus was harvested too late. The cut ends should not be dry but look like freshly cut flower stems and, in fact, when storing asparagus it is recommended that you treat it as you would cut flowers: Put the bunches in warm water, tips up and refrigerate.

To prepare asparagus for cooking, grasp each spear with both hands and snap it; it will break at a point above which the stalk is tender. You can also slice the ends and then peel the stalks.

The recipe I share from Alice Waters is Asparagus with Crispy Gingerroot. I enjoy cooking in her style — she suggests ingredients and it is up to you to determine how much of each you want to use. Trust yourself and experiment with this recipe. I am confident the results will taste heavenly.

Asparagus with Crispy Gingerroot à la Alice Waters

Snap the ends off some asparagus. If the stalks are fat, peel them. Slice them diagonally 1/4 inch thick, leaving the tips whole.

Peel a knob of ginger and slice it 1/8 inch thick, and then into julienne strips. Over high heat, sauté the ginger for about 1 minute in clarified butter, until it is crisp and golden brown. Add the asparagus and sauté for about 2 minutes more, or until tender. Drain off any excess butter, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Adapted from Alice Waters “Chez Panisse Vegetables”

And from Julia Child, it has to be boiled in the French method and served with a sauce. Yes, you read correctly: boiled. The secret is to not overcook it.

Les Asperges en Branches ala Julia Child

(Whole Boiled Asparagus)

The French method for boiling fresh asparagus is to plunge it into a large quantity of rapidly boiling water; the more water you have the more rapidly it will come back again to the boil, sealing in the vegetable juices so the asparagus will retain its maximum color, texture and taste.

4 to 6 bundles and 1 loose spear of peeled asparagus

1 large kettle of containing 7 to 8 quarts rapidly boiling water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt per quart of water

A serving platter with perforated inset, or lined with a folded white napkin to absorb the asparagus liquid.

Lay the asparagus bundles and the loose spear in the rapidly boiling water; add the salt. When boil is reached again, in 3 to 4 minutes, boil slowly, uncovered, for 6 minutes or longer, depending on asparagus quality. Start testing after 5 or 6 minutes; a knife should pierce the butts easily. Insert a fork under each tie of string and lift the bundle; the spears should bend slightly — if they droop limply you have overcooked. As a final test, eat the loose spear: It should be just tender, with the slightest suggestion of crunch.

As soon as the asparagus is done, lift out the bundles one by one with two forks: Hold each up for a few seconds to drain, place carefully on the platter, cut and draw off the strings and proceed quickly to the next bundle.

If you cannot serve the asparagus immediately, set the platter over the hot water and cover the asparagus with a folded napkin. The asparagus will soften somewhat as it waits, and exude some of its water; the sooner you can serve it the better.

Sauce Maltaise (Orange-flavored Hollandaise for asparagus and broccoli)

1 orange

3 egg yolks

1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup melted butter

Grate the rind of the orange into a saucepan, add the egg yolks and beat vigorously with a wire whip for about 1 minute until yolks are thick and sticky. Squeeze the juices of the orange and lemon into a bowl; beat 2 tablespoons into the yolks along with the 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Set pan over moderate heat and beat with wire whip, reaching all over bottom of pan, until mixture gradually turns into a smooth cream that coats the whip, be careful not to heat the yolks too quickly or they will scramble.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in the butter by droplets at first (until the sauce is very thick), then by teaspoons. Thin out, if necessary, with drops of orange and lemon juice; taste for seasoning. Keep over lukewarm water or on warm top of stove until ready to use.

Adapted from “The French Chef Cookbook” by Julia Child

I selected Martha Stewart’s Crispy Asparagus Straws for our 18 of 52 Sunday Dinners recipe. Though intended to be served as an appetizer they will make a fine dinner served with a fresh salad of greens, thinly sliced radishes and avocado.

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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