Asparagus

Back when I was a kid (in the 1970s) my parents used to go gaga over asparagus. I didn't get it then. Many years later I learned. Now it's not hard to get out of season as an import but in my mind it's still a spring vegetable. Whenever it hits $1.99/lb (or so) I pick some up. It doesn't really need much help.

It does have one, ah, unusual side effect, though... #1 smells funny. But that's a small price to pay.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough skin on the bottom (or just snap the bottoms off) and clean to remove any bruised bits on the tips before you cook it. Tradition is to blanche it and then serve with Hollandaise sauce but I don't do Hollandaise sauce. I find sea salt (or a bit of tamari), black pepper and sesame oil works wonders. When I had access to a grill, I would put it on some foil and cook that way, finishing straight on the grill. Now I do it in the broiler the same basic way. (As AB will remind you, a broiler is just an upside down grill.)

Ever since moving to NY, I've discovered the joys of authentic mainland Chinese style food and one of my favorite dishes is prawns in chili garlic sauce with asparagus. (I buy this one, not make it, at the most excellent Szechuan Gourmet on 25 W 39th St., NYCNY.)

The most elaborate asparagus dish I make is a cream of asparagus soup. It's good stuff but takes a while and, well, let's just say it's pretty far from low-fat.


Cream of Asparagus Soup

Makes about ten one cup servings.

1 lb asparagus
1 large sweet onion
1 medium white potato, diced
2 tbsp butter (approximately)
1 pint sweet cream
1 tbsp herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock (low salt)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

Cut the tips off the asparagus and reserve. Trim the woody ends off and chop in to small (1/2") pieces. Dice the onion and potato. In a kettle on medium heat, salt the the asparagus pieces, onion and potato and sweat until tender in butter. In a separate skillet, lightly sautee the tips. Then combine the onion, potato and asparagus pieces with the chicken stock, half the black pepper, herbes de Provence, and bay leaves. Bring to a low boil for approximately 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to stand until safe to blend. Remove the bay leaves. In a blender, food processor, or with a potato masher, carefully puree the onion, potato and asparagus mixture to the desired consistency. Return the puree to the pot and stir in the cream, the remaining black pepper, and add the tips back in. Dilute using hot water to the desired thickness. Dust nutmeg on the top of the bowl when serving.