If you love asparagus as much as I, you've likely had it steamed, roasted, stir-fried, baked, poached, and grilled.
But have you had it RAW yet? Those sweet, early, tender shoots of the first days of spring are perfectly prepared when they are perfect and as unprepared as possible.
Asparagus has just begun to break through their dirtbeds here to greet the sun in Central Texas, and its appearance at the local farmers markets is much ballyhooed. The first batch came home with me last week, and too impatient to fire up a heat source, I munched it straight from the market tote. It was so sublime, I dressed it only a bit the next day, combined with it's market tote-mates in a seasonal symphony of fresh flavor. And the last bit of it, gone that evening, as I tossed in a few of my favorite proteins for an encore.
Give it a try. Thicker, tougher stalks (Don't mistake size for lack of tenderness. It can really go both ways) can be peeled, and as with thinner stems, woody ends snapped or trimmed. Slice stalks below the tips, diagonally, as shown, for manageable bites. Leave tips intact, about an inch or two long.
For a side, a simple small plate of field greens, asparagus, and strawberries, dressed lightly, accompanies your season-welcoming favorite entrees. For this Meatless Monday supper, toss in a source of protein or two and you have a full meal, worthy of any simple, seasonal, soulful celebration of the vernal Equinox, this girl's favorite time of the year.
For each serving, collect
- A handful of mixed greens
- Several stalks of early asparagus, prepared as above
- 3 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
- Five or six whole strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 ounce of pignoli, or pine nuts
- 1/2 cup of cannellini beans (or other white beans of choice), canned, strained, rinsed, strained well, again.
Toss ingredients together on individual salad plates or bowls, and dress with your favorite lightly flavored dressing.
Don't have a favorite on hand? We might just have a solution. Later this week we'll talk more about springtime's welcome flag, asparagus, and share our very favorite way to dress this, or any salad that begs a bright and flavorful touch, Lemon Rosemary Gorgonzola Vinaigrette.