Tag Archives: asparagus

Kitchen tip: How to use raw asparagus.

raw asparagus

It’s Summer and that means Asparagus in all its glory! Who knew?

Some of my most favorite fruits and vegetables are in season right now – beans of all types, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, stone fruit, berries, grapes, pears – the list is long.  And right now, one of my favorites is everywhere – Asparagus!

There are many ways to serve asparagus that involve cooking or, at the minimum, blanching.  They can be added to pastas, salads, grilled or roasted and used as a simple side dish for your favorite entrée, almost any way you can think.  But, one of my favorite ways is to not cook them at all!

Raw asparagus can be very chewy and unappetizing.  The stalks can be very fibrous and almost impossible to chew.  But, ribbons that you make from raw asparagus are the best way to eat those raw spears because they are always tender.  Asparagus ribbons bring beautiful color and character to anything they are added to with just the right amount of crunch.  And the best part is they are so simple to make.

Buy medium to larger spears – save the pencil thin ones for other dishes where you want the asparagus to stay whole.  Rinse the asparagus and pat dry.  Then either snap or cut off the woody ends and simply peel the spears with a Y-peeler using a firm touch.  Y-peelers are the best for this job because you can shave the entire spear without hitting your hand on the counter or your cutting board.

If the stalk rotates or is slipping and you can’t get it to stay steady on the cutting board simply shave one side into a flat surface, place that side down on your board and shave the rounded side into ribbons.  If some of the tips fall off just add them to your ribbon pile.

The ribbons can become the salad alone tossed with a great vinaigrette and topped with some shaved parmesan. Or, add pine nuts or chopped walnuts to the salad for more texture.  Top a bowl of your favorite grains with the ribbons and then perhaps add a perfectly poached egg for an entire meal.

But, my favorite way to use raw asparagus ribbons is to add them to toast.  Here I’ve simply smashed ripe avocado onto multi-grain toast, topped it with some fresh ricotta, added a sprinkle of kosher salt, a few cracks of freshly ground pepper, the raw asparagus ribbons and then some chili flakes for a bit of heat.  Delicious!

Get ready for a spring time treat—Roasted Asparagus

It’s a quick home recipe for roasted asparagus that’s perfect for any meal.

I love the taste of fresh asparagus. And, the best way I know how to prepare them is roasting them with this very simple recipe.

The first tip: read my earlier post and video on selecting, prepping and storing asparagus. Yes, there’s a little trick to it, but only very little. The big reveal is that we peel the skin of the lower stalk of the asparagus spears. This way you get to enjoy more of the asparagus instead of snapping the ends off and tossing them away. Less waste, and more roasted veggie to enjoy.

Roasted vegetables are the simplest and tastiest way to make a perfect side dish for any meal. The best vegetables to roast are the ones that are in season and for me, when it’s Spring, that means asparagus.

Second tip for prepping any roasted veggie: keep your aromatics and spices simple. Do this, and you’ll see the flavor of the vegetable become the star of the dish.

In the previous blog post I mentioned the thickness of asparagus stalks. For some dishes, the thinner asparagus is preferred (like stir-fry and salads). But when we’re roasting, we want the larger or thicker spears.  They hold up better to roasting and we get more actual vegetable to enjoy.

Now for the recipe:

  • Prep the asparagus per my earlier post and video.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  • Lay your asparagus out in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.
  • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your asparagus. I love the oil from Corzano e Paterno that I brought home from my last trip to Italy. Turn them over to coat on all sides. A kitchen secret—use the best set of cooking tools you have in your kitchen: your hands!
  • Sprinkle coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper over the asparagus. You can use flavored sea salt if you want the added flavor profile in your finished dish. In my video, I used smoked sea salt from Jacobsen Salt and fresh ground pepper from Cole and Mason.
  • Place the baking dish uncovered into the oven and let it cook. Start checking at about 12 minutes, occasionally turning until lightly browned and just tender. Actual cooking time depends on the thickness of the stalks.
  • Finish roasting and transfer to a serving platter. Lightly drizzle good aged balsamic vinegar (I use Acetaia Villa Bianca from another trip to Italy) over the hot asparagus and top with some shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese to finish.

Watch my latest video to watch me make this dish. And here’s to enjoying the fruits of spring!

Don’t snap your asparagus—peel them!

dont snap your asparagus-really

You’ll enjoy more of your asparagus stems by peeling them.

I’ve always loved asparagus and artichokes. They remind me that spring is coming. But they also bring back so many great food memories because there are so many ways to enjoy them. And, they also tell beautiful stories about our culinary past – which is great for kicking off dinner party conversations.

We’ve been cultivating and eating asparagus since before the ancient Egyptians. A recipe for cooking asparagus was found in a book called the Apicius, a collection of Roman recipes written in the first century AD, which makes it one of the oldest surviving cookbooks in history. Leave it to the Romans to write a cookbook that lasted more than 2,000 years. Now there’s a great bit of trivia for my next dinner.

Oddly, when the Roman Empire fell, our appetite for the veggie also fell and it disappeared from the table. That vanishing act lasted until a 15th century cookbook called The Perfumed Garden helped put it back on dinner tables—as an aphrodisiac!

Now we have a nearly limitless available supply of knowledge about asparagus thanks to the internet – not just how to grow but also how to buy, store and prep the spears for cooking. The problem with all that available information is that some of it contains bad tips which I will help you sort out.

Tip 1: asparagus can taste great no matter how thick or thin. So, the size only matters when you are deciding what you are going to use them for.  Thicker stalks for cooking or shaving and the thin ‘pencil’ ones for salads, etc.  The appearance is more critical.  Choose firm, bright colored stalks with tight tips and moist ends. Don’t worry about the color: purple or white or all green – your preference. Just make sure that whichever color you choose it is vibrant with no brown spots on the stalks.

Tip 2: asparagus is best when eaten fresh. So, try to buy them the day you will use them.  But, if you need to store your asparagus, put them in a container where they can stand upright (like cut flowers) with a little water, cover the tips loosely with a plastic bag and place in your refrigerator.

Tip 3: Because asparagus is grown in sandy soil, make sure to rinse the spears thoroughly so that you remove any grit before you cook them.

Tip 4: Everyone who learned to cook during the age of Julia Child was taught to snap the ends of the spears at whatever natural break point they had. But, snapping asparagus often makes for some very short or some very long spears, and a lot of waste.  From my years owning restaurants, I will share what chefs in commercial kitchens do: they trim off the ends of the spears to make them an even length and then peel the lower 2/3 of the stalk with a veggie peeler.  It’s the outer layer of the stalk that can be tough and chewy.  This method produces much less waste and because the spears are the same length and it is a much better presentation on the plate.

The same approach holds true with artichoke stems. We all used to cut the stems off very tightly at the end of the globe and throw them away before cooking the artichoke. After I spent some time around cooks in Italy, I discovered that the artichoke stem’s tough outer layer can be peeled or cut off as well. The inside of the stem is as tender and delicious as the heart of an artichoke. It can be cooked in any number of ways – sautéed, stir fry, etc.  So, next time you reach for artichokes at the store take the ones with the stems – you’ll enjoy more them too!

See my video on how to prep asparagus and start enjoying more of your asparagus (and artichokes) this spring!