In my first column for the Coloradoan 2 years ago I wrote about asparagus, a great family favorite. Once again, asparagus is both abundantly available and reasonably priced, although not yet our local asparagus. As the concept of local food is more understood and accepted, we’ll see more or it available from northern Colorado sources. But our “wild” asparagus can be found growing near ditches and streams, the roots planted generations ago by homesteaders or seed scattered by birds.
Most traditional societies count food as medicine, emphasizing prevention rather than treatment, using foods as nourishing tonics to all systems in the body. Asparagus comes under that heading, with both shoots and roots used to nourish and strengthen energy. More can be learned from a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner. But the practice of eating a wide variety of whole foods, each in its season, in order to promote vibrant good health is a notion whose time has come again.
The first thick, meaty spears of spring are the most vigorous shoots, with production tapering off to the thin and spindly final offering for the year. The difficulty with thick spears is their stringy toughness unless the stalks are peeled with a vegetable peeler. I parboil these spears in 1/4 -1/3 cup of salted water, cooking just 2-4 minutes until the water has almost cooked away, then plunge the spears into cold water to stop the cooking, and refrigerate. Later, I simply heat enough for dinner in 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet, shaking the pan to promote even heat, and serve immediately. I usually parboil more than I need for one meal, then slice a few stalks into the omelet pan or into a mixed vegetable stir-fry over the next few days. Snow peas, asparagus, and spring onions are especially delicious cooked in unrefined sesame oil with a splash of tamari and a sprinkle of sesame seeds tossed in just before serving.
Marinate asparagus, portabella mushrooms, and whole green onion stalks in balsamic vinegar and olive oil for 20-30 minutes along with a scatter of any fresh herbs on hand. Grill over low heat and roll into a tortilla with a thin slice of your favorite cheese for a quick supper or lunch.
If the recent winds and wet snow are too daunting, use a cast iron grill pan or griddle indoors on the stove.
An easy lemon sauce, less labor intensive than Hollandaise, is nice with asparagus, or combined with asparagus and poached eggs.
Lemon Butter Sauce
1/3 cup butter
2 tbsp. chopped chives
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. salt
dash of pepper
Heat the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. Keep warm and serve over asparagus or broccoli, soft-boiled or poached eggs on toast or English muffin. Do not boil the sauce or it will separate.