Outwitting the Asparagus Thief

There is a flurry of activity at our house today! I had kind of been holding out on going to the grocery store at the end of last week, using up what we had and trying to stretch things until the farmer’s market on Saturday. As a result, and much to Alex’s chagrin, my fridge looked kind of like this:

But after Saturday’s market, I (and Alex) breathed a sigh of relief. Check out this spring bounty:

Fresh eggs, rhubarb, green onions, spinach, sorrel, radishes, and asparagus

 I am writing this post in between storing the lemon-basil-buttermilk muffins I made this morning, chopping up the rhubarb to freeze, and trimming my radishes for breakfasts this week. After all, if I’m going to make the most of my market dollars, I’ve got to freeze or otherwise preserve what I’m not going to be able to use within the next couple of days (as tempting as it is to want to create some spring dish that features each of these ingredients at each meal).

And along with two ways to cook asparagus which I will share with you below (incidentally, Amanda of Food52 are also recently featured asparagus two ways), I wanted to recount a tale that illustrates how much our bodies crave something fresh and green and quintessentially spring-y come the middle of April.

It was about this time two years ago and I had been looking for the first asparagus of the season at the farmer’s market, but so far had had no luck. Then, about the middle of April, I had a dream that I found asparagus at the market the next day. Upon waking, I sprang out of bed and made it to the market 15 minutes after it opened (this would have been 7:15 A.M. on a Saturday). I walked quickly from booth to booth, scanning the lettuces and spinachs for the bundles of green spears that my dream had assured me I would find. As I was waiting in line to pay for my eggs, behind an exceptionally slow shopper whom I will refer to as the “asparagus thief,” I spotted two bundles of asparagus standing like sentinels in a bucket of water a couple booths down. 

I paid for my eggs and walked extremely briskly – seriously, it was borderline speed-walking – to the tent with the asparagus when, not 10 feet from the bucket, slow-moving asparagus thief woman snatched them both! My heart sank. I was so sure that day was going to be my lucky day. I finished my shopping and was about to head home when I spied one humble farmer who had just finished spreading out his asparagus across an entire table.

He might have thought I was slightly insane, but I told him all about my dream and the asparagus thief lady while collecting about 3 pounds of his asparagus into my shopping bag. I paid him and heralded him a hero for making my dreams come true. 

So there was a happy ending after all. Needless to say, when it’s asparagus season, I make sure to get to the market extra early. This week I found quite a bit of it. 

How do I prepare this delicious vegetable once I make it home? My all-time favorite way is roasting. However you prepare it, be sure to rinse it off well. Break the stems where they break naturally (usually the bottom inch or so). If you’ve got any exceptionally thick pieces, you might consider peeling them with a vegetable peeler, but this isn’t necessary. Then choose one of the following methods for cooking, or cut the spears into 1-inch pieces and seal into freezer bags and freeze to use when you need them.

Roasted Asparagus
Yum Factor: Alex – 8.3, Jessalyn – 9 

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, drizzle the asparagus with a little bit of olive oil (maybe 1-2 tablespoons). Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and

…and the secret ingredient: freshly grated nutmeg.

I don’t know what it is, or where I heard this from, but fresh nutmeg is brilliant with roasted asparagus. If you’re not a huge nutmeg fan, don’t worry, you likely won’t be able to discern it once its cooked, but it really brings about the asparagus-ness of the asparagus. It’s magical.

3. So, yeah, roast the asparagus at 375F for about 10-15 minutes, depending whether you like a little bit of a bite or you like it on the mooshier side.

Serve as a side dish to a steak, topped with a poached egg (or hollandaise sauce if you’re feeling ambitious), or just munch on it by itself. Yum.

Sugared Asparagus (adapted from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert) 
Yum Factor: Alex – 7.9, Jessalyn – 8

– 1 tablespoon butter
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
– 1/4 cup chicken broth
1. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s melted, add the asparagus and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmering for 6 minutes. 

3. Remove asparagus to serving bowl and boil down the sauce until it is rich and syrupy and looks like this

and then drizzle it over the cooked asparagus like this:

I found this recipe a bit unusual when I first read through it, but quite enjoyed it. Asparagus contains a certain amount of sweetness on its own, and this brown sugar caramelized glaze helps to accentuate that, giving it a nice crunch.

There are plenty of things you can do with asparagus–these are just two suggestions. But Spring is definitely in full-force here. I encourage you to celebrate enthusiastically the season’s first vegetables and to find your own way to outwit the asparagus thief. Now that I’ve shared with you my secret to perfect roasted asparagus, you too can join in the stinky pee club – but I promise the asparagus will taste awesome.

(P.S. For those of you who came looking for the Sunday garden update, nothing new was planted this week. We did discover that one of my blueberry bushes has been over run by a ginormous ant colony, but they have not climbed up the tree at all so we don’t think it’s aphids; they also do not appear to be eating the roots; and it’s too early for mealybugs here, so we are hoping it’s just a large colony who happens to like the pine bark mulch that blankets the bush. Fingers crossed. Still gives me the heebie-jeebies).

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  1. […] It Started with Yum one creative woman's culinary chronicles Skip to content HomeAboutFAQsGalleryKitchen Tour ← Outwitting the Asparagus Thief […]

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