Monday, May 3, 2010

Produce of the Week: Asparagus

It is spring, or so I keep telling myself in this dreary weather. And in my opinion, there is no vegetable that better represents early spring than asparagus. In fact, in the great PNW asparagus makes an appearance between April and June (although this year the flood seemed to arrive on May 1st)! As you may have noticed in my last post, my local farmers market was abounding with these green stalks. What is a veggie girl to do in this situation but eat asparagus?

Native to Eurasia and parts of northern Africa, asparagus has been cultivated for over two millennia. It is high in an assortment of nutrients, which explains its traditional medicinal use. It tastes delicious and is very versatile, which explains its culinary spread. And, it's a perennial plant that is drought resistant, which explains its popularity in gardening circles.

So what does one do with asparagus? Well, just about every and anything. Tonight I made a lemony asparagus pizza bianca that was delicious! However, you will have to wait for my Pies-With-That post later this week to get my recipe.

One of my favorite Italian restaurants, the Risotteria at Seattle's Il Fornaio, serves up this delicious risotto. The "Dorato" is an amazing combination of asparagus, artichoke, butternut squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and saffron. While I could never replicate their brilliance, Smitten Kitchen has a recipe that is pretty darn close (just make vegan substitution with veggie broth and oil and leave out the cheese).

The Spring Panzanella (a bread salad) at 101 Cookbooks looks amazing! As does the Asparagus Stir-Fry. NY Times has a Balsamic Glazed Asparagus recipe, mmm... And while I'm not a big fan of cold soup, Bittersweet's Chilled Spring Soup looks lovely. Just remember, with asparagus you can never go wrong if you grill it or toss the stems with some EVOO and pasta!

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