Friday, April 29th, 2011
My kids won’t eat asparagus. I’ve tried everything: slathered in butter; gently steamed; roasted (my favorite), with lots of olive oil and salt; and even, per this week’s post, served simply raw, and dressed so lightly as to be nearly naked. I think it was terrific although, in the final tally, it turned out to be about as productive as a hard 16 in Vegas, the stuff still won’t pass their lips except perforce…
The munchkins claim that it’s because of the well-advertised, if not terribly well-understood, Wee Wee Effect, and that a single bite will permanently dye them an unpleasant shade of green or something, but I’m skeptical; I just think they don’t like to eat green stuff, and the data is on my side.
Be that as it may, asparagus season is rocking right now, and I’m not about to stop cooking the stuff at its seasonal peak – the California crop crests in March, April, and into May - just because the peanut gallery doesn’t care for smelly pee. And that’s a good thing, because asparagus makes for seriously tasty and healthful munchies – the funny-looking little trees come loaded with antioxidants, vitamin K, and folates – and Americans don’t eat nearly enough of it: per capita annual consumption in the US has leveled off at a rather flaccid 1.5lbs. You may counter that at least we’re weaning ourselves off the noxious canned stuff, and you’d be right, but to put it in context, that 1.5 lbs is what just one of those little bushels you see at the market probably weighs, and works out to a paltry 0.3% of the typical American’s total annual diet of vegetables. Suffice it to say, I’m doing my part to get the numbers up.
I like to taste an ingredient in its most stripped-down form before mauling it over the heat anyway, so in an inexplicable fit of optimism, I wondered if the kids, having rejected all cooked forms of the vegetable, would get on-board with me and consume it raw. I was wrong, but I still like to think of this dish as a gateway drug for the uninitiated: uncooked, nearly unadorned, and shaved like a proper example of personal grooming, it tastes precisely like what it is. The out-of-season tomatoes I get at Whole Foods are tragically if predictably substandard right now, but fine salt and a hint of lemon from the exceptional Da Vero olive oil do wonders for asparagus’s distinctly sulfurous note, and shaving it eliminates the unpleasantly woody texture that raw or undercooked asparagus usually has. That, and it took about 90 seconds to prep.
Shaved Asparagus with Da Vero Meyer Lemon Olive Oil & Sel Gris
One bunch of fresh California asparagus, preferably organic (try to find a bunch of relatively small and uniform diameter, and with tight, coherent tips); a handful of grape tomatoes; Da Vero Meyer lemon olive oil (any good olive oil will do, but you may then want for a squeeze of lemon); and Sel Gris (or your favorite finishing salt).
1) Wash the asparagus and cut off and reserve the tips; cut off and discard the dried, wooden ends. Wash the tomatoes.
2) Blanch the asparagus tips for 2-3 minutes (optional, but they’re much better this way, and add a nice variation in flavor and texture to the salad).
3) Set the stalks on a cutting board, hold down the thin end, and use a vegetable peeler to shave them into long, thin strips (I discard the first and last strips, as they are virtually all exterior skin and can be unpleasant to eat raw).
4) Toss the shaved strips and tomatoes in bowl with the olive oil and plenty of the salt (maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, depending). Garnish with tips, if using. You’re done.