This week we’re focussing on asparagus; love it or hate it — and I’ve done both in one day during one of my pregnancies — it’s certainly a special vegetable. In season for only a short time in the spring, tending to be expensive, it’s something most people associate with formal dinners and upscale restaurants. Even if they don’t like asparagus, they’re impressed by it.
We’re in the asparagus window right now, so I was able to pick up a large bunch of slender stalks for $1.99 at the corner store. It’s delicious simply steamed, but there are lots of other things you can do with it. (And as far as steaming: You may see old recipes that tell you to let it go on for up to 20 minutes. Ignore them. Asparagus may have been less tender then, and tastes were definitely different. Three or four minutes, at the outside, in the microwave, and maybe a little more if you’re using a steamer basket, are optimal for taste, texture, and color.)
Looking for something special to do with this asparagus, I turned to the Whitehouse Cookbook by Mrs. F.L. Gillette and modified an asparagus recipe I found there. For one thing, I cut the steaming time from 20 minutes to one minute. This turns out almost like a soufflé, but it’s much quicker and easier. You could even make it for breakfast or brunch, though it’s great at dinner too.
Some other ways to make asparagus more interesting than plain steamed: You can bread and fry it, as I learned while reading Joe Famularo’s Perdutamente: Crazy for Italian Food. His mom used to set up an assembly line with dishes of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. Each stalk was rolled in each coating, in that order, and fried quickly in hot oil. Hollandaise sauce is another traditional pairing with asparagus, but it’s rich stuff, made mostly of butter and egg yolk. You could try a little lemon butter instead. Just remember not to choose anything that will overpower the delicate taste of the asparagus.
- 10 stalks young asparagus
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Wash the asparagus thoroughly but carefully.
- Break off about an inch of the lower ends — they’re tough.
- Steam for one minute.
- Drain and arrange in an ovenproof dish.
- Meanwhile, separate the egg.
- Mix the yolk with the sour cream.
- Whip the white until stiff.
- Gently fold the egg white and the yolk mixture together.
- Pour over the asparagus.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake at 350℉ for five to 10 minutes — till egg is puffy and cheese is browned.
- Serve right away.