Posts tagged ‘asparagus’
To me, asparagus sings “spring”, a welcome song after a long winter.
Avoid no more. Whether you want to make soup, salad, or simply a side dish, this is the time to enjoy it at the height of its freshness and availability.
My favorite way to serve asparagus is to grill it. First snap the stalks to get rid of the rough and chewy ends. Then drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and a bit of black pepper. Using tongs, move the asparagus around on the plate to coat each spear before placing them directly on a hot grill. Depending on the thickness, I usually don’t leave them on the grill more than 5 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even cooking and blackening. Stay close and watch them carefully to avoid burning.
Once the asparagus is cooked, the least complicated way to eat it is as a side dish with meat or fish, embellished only with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I also enjoy making a salad with asparagus, using greens or grains as the base. Here’s a great Bobby Flay recipe that is substantial enough to serve as a full meal. If you don’t want to take the time to make olive vinaigrette, buy a jar of olive tapenade and doctor it with some red wine vinegar and a touch of mustard.
When asparagus season nears its end and the stalks start getting thick and tougher, use them to make a cream-less asparagus soup.In this recipe, I reserve the stalks, microwaved separately, and add them to the finished product. I also puree the whole batch, using one of my favorite tools, an immersion blender. The sour cream is not an essential element, so feel free to eliminate the fat and skip it altogether. The soup will still taste rich and flavorful.
Café Sebastienne has been a perennial favorite since its debut in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995. In the original and smaller dining room, colorful oils by Artist Fredrick James Brown cover the walls. Diners can also choose to sit in the enclosed courtyard, with its vast ceilings, bright sunshine and decidedly louder decibel level.
Though I am always drawn to the tomato tart that highlights the summer menu, on a recent visit I decided to try the asparagus salad that my friend always orders. We were there to celebrate her birthday, so we complemented our salads with a glass of wine, a gesture that for me feels decadent and delicious, as I usually only imbibe after five. I enjoyed the NEXT Reisling, which is from the King Estate folks in Oregon, though the grapes are sourced from Washington. It was fruity without being the slightest bit sweet.
Now to the highlight of the meal (other than the wonderful conversation with the birthday girl, of course). The asparagus salad was a winner. Asparagus are grilled and served with baby coins of roasted fingerling potatoes and a poached egg. A warm truffle vinaigrette turns a nice dish into a sensational one. The menu offers it with applewood-smoked bacon, but we opted for the vegetarian version. Runny eggs are a big thing these days, on all sorts of dishes. I’m not a morning egg person–I could go through the rest of my life without another omelette or fried eggs and toast. But this new trend hits the right notes, with the yolk oozing out and mixing with other flavors on the plate.
It’s hard to go wrong with anything on Cafe Sebastienne’s menu. Other long-loved dishes include moist fish tacos with spicy black beans and avocado sauce, ever-changing soups and salads, fist-sized crab cakes and an awesome Reuben sandwich.
Asparagus season will be over soon–don’t miss out on one of spring’s most versatile and tasty offerings. Select freshly picked stalks, without the chalky film at the bottom. Whether steaming, roasting or grilling, simply snap each one near the end; they will break at the proper point, where the woody and tender parts meet. Grilling is my favorite preparation. Before throwing the spears on a hot grill, dress them with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Turn every couple of minutes until just cooked through. (Like green beans, if the vibrant green color disappears, the asparagus is overcooked.) Once off the grill, arrange on a special platter and splash with additional vinegar. Finally, top with shavings of Parmesan. Alternatively, roast for 10-15 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
Previously published in the Independent magazine.