Tag Archives: asparagus

Celebrating Asparagus

The season of asparagus has descended upon the Piedmont, a time, for some, that is highly anticipated. Europeans have festivals celebrating the arrival of asparagus; in the weeks before its appearance you can practically hear all the menus being rewritten to incorporate the cherished vegetable. The first recipes for asparagus date back to 2,500 years ago “written in ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics” and the passion continued with the Caesars who sent out ships to search for the best asparagus(Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). When you eat asparagus lovingly and in season you will be joining in with royalty. But all of this asparagus-frenzy is not unfounded, it is a truly remarkable vegetable. Planting asparagus is hard work, but once planted an asparagus patch can produce for twenty to thirty years. After it is planted it takes three years before it can be harvested and then the first year of harvest can only last for two weeks. Asparagus needs an adequate amount of dormancy in the warmer months in order to store enough starch underground so that it can produce the next year. Once the patch is mature it can still only be harvested for about eight weeks before it must be allowed grow past it’s crown stage and into the stage that resembles a smaller, feathery Christmas tree—the female plants even produce bright red berries.

asparagus3

For most of my asparagus information I turned to Barbara Kingsolver, an asparagus aficionado. She is so infatuated with the plant that she has dug it into the yards of almost everywhere she has lived, including rental homes where she would never see it come to fruition. She has a whole chapter entitled ‘Waiting For Asparagus’ in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and joins in with other local food writers and chefs in using asparagus as the spearhead for eating seasonally and locally. “[Asparagus is] best eaten the day it is cut, period…Waiting for the quality experience seems to be the constitutional article that has slipped from American food custom. If we mean to reclaim it, asparagus seems like a place to start” (Kingsolver, 32). If we are to follow in the footsteps of Kingsolver—fantastic footsteps to follow in, I would argue—we would eat asparagus like mad for the eight weeks we can grow it and not touch it again until it peaks its grey-green head through the familiar soil the next year. What better way is there to stay in touch with the seasons than eating what they offer as they offer it?

asparagus1So with all of my research and writing about the amazing flavor of freshly harvested asparagus I couldn’t resist a trip to the farmers market for fresh asparagus. I arrived and found beautiful, alluring bunches of green and purple asparagus everywhere so I quickly chose one and ran from my urge to continue buying produce. I wanted to find a different way to cook asparagus that I had never heard of before and discovered this recipe for Lemon Dijon Crusted Asparagus Fries, which turned out quite deliciously.

Asparagus Fries

  • asparagusprep21 bunch of asparagus, washed, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Lemon Dijon Aioli

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • salt & pepper

Asparagus Fries

  1. asparagus fries oven2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with baking spray.
  2. Combine egg, dijon and lemon juice in a shallow bowl, whisk together.
  3. Combine breadcrumbs, lemon zest, red pepper and salt & pepper in a dish and mix together.
  4. Coat asparagus first in egg mixture and then in breadcrumb mixture. Line up on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until breadcrumbs have turned golden brown and asparagus still has some “bite” left to it.
  6. Serve warm out of the oven.

Lemon Dijon Aioli

  1. While asparagus bake, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

asparagus fries2

You have eight weeks to enjoy the crisp, sweet presence of asparagus. Relish it while its here and, if you’re feeling daring, take after Barbara Kingsolver and experience the long wait to celebrate its majestic return.