Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stalking Asparagus

You know it's spring when...

Asparagus has arrived in the produce section at Jungle Jim's! You'll find bundles of tender stalks of white, green and purple asparagus carefully nestled in the chipped ice. We brought some up to the Cooking School to use for testing recipes for upcoming classes and had to get a photograph to show off the beautiful colors.

If you are unfamiliar with the white and purple varieties, consider giving them a try. White asparagus is simply green asparagus grown beneath a layer of hay or soil which prevents photosynthesis from occurring. Fresh white asparagus will have a slightly crunchier texture than the green or purple varieties. Purple asparagus may be a bit sweeter than the green and white types. We have noted that during cooking, the purple asparagus will lose some of it's color when heated, so don't be alarmed or dismayed when the brilliant color fades.

You can prepare cleaned asparagus in several ways:
  • To blanch for as an appetizer, place in boiling water for 15 seconds (small spears) and 30 second (large spears). Rinse under cold water to set the color. Transfer to a clean towel to dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  • To grill, lightly coat the spears in olive oil. Place the spears perpendicular to the grates and grill for 2 or more minutes depending on thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • To roast, spread the spears on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 7-12 minutes depending on thickness. Season with salt and pepper.
Keep in mind that asparagus will continue to cook in the residual heat, so cook/roast/grill until just tender-crisp.

A Note from Leigh
I stopped downstairs in produce on my way home tonight looking for a vegetable for dinner. The beautiful purple asparagus caught my eye. The stalks are large, 10 stalks weighed 1.06 pounds. Because of the size, I decided to slow-roast them at 350° degrees for about 25 minutes - rather than in a hotter oven for less time as I would thinner asparagus. The result was delicious. The spears were very tender and had a mild asparagus flavor. The vibrant purple color fades slightly with roasting.

Roasted Purple Asparagus
1 1/2 pounds large purple asparagus, about 16 stalks
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Rinse asparagus well and pat dry. Break off woody ends of stalks. Transfer asparagus to prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat lightly and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Serves 4.

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