A little break from Sugar Busting this morning because THE ASPARAGUS IS HERE!!
I realize many of you have probably been able to buy asparagus in the store for a few weeks now, and may well have moved from your initial joy, through some sort of asparagus binge, and are now less willing to pay for the delectability, but before you get too complacent, just remember, it won’t be here for long. My asparagus high is particularly profound because this year, the third year since planting, I get to eat some asparagus from my own patch. Wow. The spatial limitations of my asparagus patch have, however, forced me to reconsider my favorite ways to eat asparagus; when you only have three stalks at a time to work with, the traditional side dish approaches don’t make a whole lot of sense. On the other hand, when you have three stalks of fresh from your garden asparagus, you darned well better find a way to use them because they will never taste quite as awesome as they do right at that moment.
Not an asparagus fan? This might be one you should reconsider. From a nutritional standpoint, asparagus has a lot to offer including potassium, fiber, folacin, thiamine, B6, and a compound called rutin. These nutrients make asparagus a great food for helping to prevent birth defects and maintain healthy blood and liver function. So I say don’t like asparagus? Try it another way.
We’ve been using our mini harvests a variety of ways, all of which involve chopping the asparagus stalks into smaller pieces so that they become part of another dish rather than the superstar that they can be in quantity. This is also a great way to five asparagus a second chance and to make the little bundle you bought go farther. We’ve used these little nubs in their delightfully tender and raw state a variety of ways including the most obvious choice, sprinkling them on a salad. We’ve also added them to our favorite tofu and rice dish. If you are an egg eater, I think a sprinkle of these babies over gently poached or perfect over-easy egg would be stunning. Our favorite use for our asparagus was adding it to one of our old standby dishes, orzo with spinach and lemon. The asparagus added a little crunch to the texture and springiness to the flavor. It interacted beautifully with the lemon and olive oil. Just fantastic. So I thought I’d share it with you.
LEMON ORZO WITH SPINACH AND ASPARAGUS
- 1 lb. whole wheat orzo
- About 5 very large and packed handfuls of raw spinach (adjust to taste)
- Juice from 1.5 small lemons
- 3 T olive oil
- 2T oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped raw asparagus bits (we used three stalks, but more would have been nicer)
- Grated parmesan, if desired
Cook orzo according to package directions – with the caveat that I usually shave a minute or so off of their recommended time. Taste it early, see what you think. You do NOT want a big bowl of mush. While orzo is cooking, chop the spinach into bite sized pieces. Place spinach, lemon juice, and olive oil in large bowl. When orzo is done, drain in sieve or other colander with SMALL holes (sorry if that’s obvious, but I’ve done such things). Add hot orzo to bowl with spinach, etc. and stir, distributing the spinach and seasonings throughout the orzo. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle asparagus over individual servings. Garnish with parmesan if desired. I went without and didn’t miss it. This recipe made plenty for our family of four (with only one reluctant participator – our picky girl, who wasn’t even swayed by the promise of stinky pee later) and also served as a leftover dinner for a very hungry adult a couple of nights later.
A Note on Preparing Asparagus: Store-bought asparagus can be tough at the base of the stalk. Test your asparagus by bending one stalk to see how low you can break it easily. Use this stalk as a guide for chopping the bottoms off the rest. If the stalks are particularly thick or seem slightly tough generally, you can also use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin, revealing the yummy tender inside.
So there’s my spring asparagus fling. I’m headed out to check the patch this morning and pick up a few strays, and looking forward to Easter dinner, when I know there will be a big honkin’ pile of it (Thanks, Mom). What spring vegetable makes your mouth happy?