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Fear Conquered: Asparagus
The growing season for asparagus is far too short - bunches of slender stalks sprout up in stores for about two months in the spring, then it's gone for the rest of the year. You can still find it, but it's imported and usually very sad, dry and woody. And it's always wickedly expensive. So for about three weeks every year, I go on an asparagus kick, stocking up on as much fresh asparagus as I reasonably assume Boyfriend Javelin and I can consume. And I serve it as a side with just about everything.
Since I have a bad habit of not jotting down notes when I'm making impromptu sides (cue new kitchen with space for laptop), it's taken me two years to experiment with asparagus and to find my favorite way to cook it. Every time I would stumble onto a version worth repeating, I'd end up kicking myself the next time because I hadn't bothered to write anything down. A pinch of this (or was it four pinches?) and a dash of that (or did I leave that out) and a hope and prayer that it all worked together.
So this year I got serious about keeping track of what I was doing to these bundles of green stems. I grudgingly jotted down ingredients each time I prepared asparagus; I tried valiantly to measure with real measuring spoons; and I forced myself to repeat the same version over and over until even Goldilocks would have pleaded with me to give it a rest. And after all that, I now have one version of asparagus I can replicate every time (if I can resist tinkering with the recipe).
But there are so many ways to make asparagus (grilled, roasted, blanched/shocked, etc), it's really silly to call this version anything more than a workable recipe. It's tasty and I especially like the crunch of the almonds with the zing of vinegar, but when next year's asparagus season rolls around, I'll be back to experimenting with new flavors and techniques. Grilling asparagus sounds like fun. And by that point, we will have finished our faux-slab patio out back, so what better excuse could I have for shivering over a grill at the end of March?
Before I get to the recipe, just a quick update for those waiting patiently for that chocolate cake recipe I keep promising. I got feedback from my coworkers, friends and Boyfriend Javelin (and thanks to everyone who gave feedback), so I'm now making one last set of tweaks to the recipe, baking one last test cake and then I'll post. If you're within driving range, expect a package with a note that reads "Dear devoted friend: EAT CAKE!"
Now back to the real show-stopper: asparagus!
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|Add 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat.|
|Add 3/4 teaspoon onion powder and 1/8 teaspoon each of cayenne and cracked black pepper. Stir to combine spices with oil. Allow oil to heat while you prepare asparagus.|
|You will need 1/2 pound of fresh asparagus (most grocers sell asparagus in 1/2 pound bundles).|
|Remove the woody section at the base of each asparagus stalk (I just snap it off with my fingers).|
|You will be left with two piles: the removed woody sections and the asparagus stalks. Save the woody section for making stock/soup or discard.|
|Slice off the tips of each asparagus stalk and reserve these for later.|
|Slice each stalk into 2-inch pieces. I slice mine on the bias for a more dramatic presentation.|
|Add the sliced asparagus to the hot saute pan (do not add asparagus tips yet).|
|Peel 3 cloves of garlic and mince (or use a garlic press as I do).|
|Add minced garlic to the asparagus, stir to combine and saute for 2 minutes.|
|Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.|
|Add the reserved asparagus tips.|
|You will also need 3 Tablespoons unsalted sliced almonds. I really like Fisher almonds.|
|Add the sliced almonds to the asparagus, toss to combine everything and saute for another 2 minutes.|
|Next is the distilled vinegar. You only need 1 Tablespoon, so measure carefully.|
|Add 1 Tablespoon vinegar to the pan, stir to combine and saute another minute, stirring constantly.|
|Serve immediately for best flavor and texture.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Sautéed Asparagus with Almonds
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 pound fresh asparagus
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted sliced almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper and onion powder
- While the oil and seasonings heat, trim the asparagus and slice the stalks on the bias into 2-inch length pieces; reserve the asparagus tips
- Add the sliced asparagus (excluding tips) to the saute pan and stir to coat the asparagus with the oil and seasonings
- Immediately add the minced garlic to the pan and saute with asparagus for 2 minutes
- Add the asparagus tips, sliced almonds and kosher salt to the pan. Toss to combine and saute for another 2 minutes until the asparagus is crisp tender
- Add the vinegar to the pan and toss the asparagus to coat; cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and serve immediately
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2010 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
- Heating the oil with the spices encourages the release of the flavors from the cayenne, onion and cracked pepper. And it also means you won't be distracted measuring spices once you've added the fast-cooking asparagus to the pan.
- To trim asparagus, gently grip the base of the asparagus stalk in one hand and the middle of the stalk in your other hand; bend the stalk until the woody base breaks off; discard the woody base (or save for making stock) and slice the remaining stalk as desired.
- The asparagus tips don't take as long as the stalk to cook. That's why when you order asparagus at most restaurants, either the asparagus tips are complete mush or the stalks are dreadfully undercooked. So do what I do - cook the stalks and tips separately.
- Do NOT overcook asparagus or it will become limp and soggy like the nasty frozen stuff. So don't start sauteing your asparagus until the guests are seated at the dinner table.
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