It’s that time of year again: when everything that’s just come into season dictates dinner. Asparagus will be around until June, briefly overlapping its winter counterpart, sprouting purple broccoli. I love them both, but the purple sprouting lasts for months, while the asparagus season always seems too short. I feel rejuvenated just looking at her. It reminds me of hyacinths. You can imagine the tops of the asparagus tips turning into lavender-tinged flowers. Of course not, but asparagus is part of the same family.
I cook differently these weeks, with the feeling of abandonment that accompanies summer, even if it is still far away. It’s asparagus every three days at my house, mostly simply cooked. The first meal is hot asparagus with melted butter. You also need good bread – different types work, but at first it’s plain white bread.
The second meal consists of asparagus with fried eggs, good extra virgin olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, seasonings and parmesan shavings. You might think the parmesan would be too strong, but no. The flavor of asparagus seems to get more assertive when you pair it with Parmesan cheese. I love the sense of messy partying when cooking with my sons. There’s the cheese slicer, the asparagus maker, the egg fryer, all battling for space at the cooktop. You need to cook lightly so that the asparagus has the right degree of tenderness and the eggs are done. You need bread again—ciabatta this time—to mop up the last bit of egg yolk that gets mixed in with the olive oil. Sounds extravagant, but asparagus with eggs? It’s cheaper than meat or fish.
Antonio Carluccio, who I worked with for a while, showed me how to get rid of the woody end by finding the point where the spear has a natural bend. Then you cut or break it there. It seems pointless, but cook the suckers in water and use them for soup or to add to asparagus risotto.
How to cook it? I have a big cheap pot with a metal basket inside. I don’t often leave room for things that have limited use, but I’m happy to bring out the asparagus steamer every year. No saucepan? Use a wide saucepan, put boiling water – about 4 cm – in the bottom. Tie the asparagus together and press them against the side so that the bases boil and the tips steam (the pan must be covered).
As the season progresses, there are hundreds of dishes you can make with asparagus (about half of them, admittedly, with eggs), some of them surprising. Just read on…
Try the asparagus with…
In Veneto, they take hot hard-boiled eggs (use four) and blend them in a food processor with eight anchovy fillets, 1 tbsp capers and 1½ tbsp white wine vinegar while slowly adding 200 ml of extra virgin olive oil. They serve it with white asparagus but it’s also good with green.
In French cuisine, a dish called “mimosa” indicates the presence of finely chopped hard-boiled eggs. Keep the eggs warm, pour the melted butter over the steamed asparagus, sprinkle over the eggs and season.
If you’re roasting asparagus in olive oil – the time depends on the size but count 8 minutes on a 200°C fan – it can take strong Mediterranean treatments, like a black olive and bacon vinaigrette, or a Hollandaise with the addition of chopped anchovies (these melt as you heat them in olive oil, then add them to your Hollandaise).
Arrange a poached egg on asparagus with anchovies, melted as above, and chopped sautéed shallots.
Romesco sauce – made with roasted peppers and tomatoes, smoked paprika, walnuts (I like hazelnuts), garlic, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil – also goes well with roasted asparagus. Add a spoonful of fresh cream to each plate along with the toasted hazelnuts.
Serve the steamed asparagus with the crab mayonnaise – mix the white crab meat with the mayonnaise, chopped chervil and chives – and put a small spoonful of salmon roe on top.
Steamed asparagus with sautéed summer mushrooms, mashed peas and a drizzle of melted butter are an elegant accompaniment.
Asparagus with dippy eggs and smoked salmon and soldiers
I use Karaway Bakery dark rye with sunflower seeds for soldiers (available from Ocado) because it tastes good with salmon. The individual slices of this bread are quite small, hence the suggestion that you might need 8 slices (two per person).
Even though it makes things quite messy, I put the asparagus in melted butter. Asparagus without any shine does not look so appetizing. Towels should be offered, as people will need to wipe their hands.
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This notice was published: 2022-05-03 17:06:06