Friday, January 28, 2011

Foodie Friday: Leftover Asparagus

Did you know how cool asparagus is?

Or, are you one of those people who aren't quite sure what to do with it or how to make the most of this veggie?

I'm back to writing food trade articles, and one of the things with the articles is that their purpose is for merchandising/marketing.  But, when I research, I get so much more information than that.  So, why not share?

Some nifty facts:

Asparagus is part of the lily family, so it acts more like flowers than vegetables.

Related to it's flowery lineage, it can grow up to 2 inches after it's been cut.  So, if you purchase it from the grocery store and keep it in your fridge on a moist pad or in shallow water, you may end up with more than you bought!

Also, because it acts like a flower, you want to make sure that you don't let water sit on the tips because then they will rot – like floral blooms would when left wet.

Purple asparagus can be eaten raw because it has a higher sugar count than green and white asparagus.

Cooking tips:

As most cooking shows and magazines will tell you, you really don't want to eat the bottom third to half, so you should cut and discard that.  The easiest way to find out where you should cut, bend a few slightly until they break.  That break point can be a guide for where to cut the rest of the asparagus.

Thick asparagus is really good for grilling.  Toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder, and cook either on the second rack or with indirect heat. 

Thinner asparagus is better if you just braise it or sauté it. 

Another trick for cooking asparagus is to have a tall, narrow pan and stand up the asparagus so that only the base is in the water, you'll get a more even texture because the woodier stalks need the more direct boiling while the tender tops can cook in the more delicate steam.

A Recipe-ish:

One thing a lot of people don't think of using asparagus for is pesto.  Add braised white or green asparagus, or even raw purple, or even a combination, to a basic pesto mix-and-match.

Choose 1/2 cup toasted:
pine nuts
shelled pistachios

Choose a good handful of fresh:

A good drizzle of white balsamic vinegar
A good drizzle of white wine vinegar
Juice and zest of one lemon

Vegetable (optional):
1 cup chopped asparagus (blanched white and/or green, raw purple)
1 cup spinach
1 cup sun-dried tomato
1 cup roasted red pepper

Add that to a minimum of 6 cloves garlic (Personally, I'll use up to half a head of garlic) and a few table spoons of grated parmesan, romano, and/or asiago cheeses in a food processor.  As you process the ingredients, add extra virgin olive oil until you get the pesto to a consistency and flavor you like.  Then, just toss it with your favorite pasta and enjoy!

* some facts and tips provided by Cherie Watte Angulo of the California Asparagus Commission and Julia Inestroza of Gourmet Trading Company; photo courtesy of California Asparagus Commission.


Lindsey Duncan said...

I've recently (August) started cooking for "real" (as opposed to throwing boxes at walls and hoping they hit the stove at some point on the way down) and found this really interesting even though I'm not an asparagus fan. Thanks for sharing!

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Happy to share, Lindsey! :) The pesto might "mask" the fact it's asparagus... but then, enough garlic can do that to almost any vegetable. ;) It's an evil hobby of mine to "hide" vegetables that people don't like in a dish they find they like. Happy cooking!

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