If flowering trees, green grass and longer days don’t tell you spring is here, then depend upon asparagus. A member of the lily family it can be found in green, white and a purple variety called Viola, which I have never seen locally. The earliest stalks are a lovely apple green with purple tinged tips. They are graded by size with pencil being the skinniest, then standard and jumbo. The favored for most applications is the standard.
The pencil thin is too thin to grill or even roast and must be cooked in simmering water.
The standard size is about the thickness of an index finger and is perfect for roasting or grilling. The jumbo is from the most mature plants and the bottom of the stalk can be very tough. To solve this problem, the stalks should be peeled down to reach the inner, more tender core. White asparagus is considered by some to be more tender with a smoother stalk. It is the same as green except that as it starts to emerge from the earth, dirt is piled on top to keep it from becoming exposed. The lack of light keeps the stalks from turning green. Really fresh asparagus will keep for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
If it becomes a bit shriveled, cut the bottom stem off and place in a glass with about one inch of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. My favorite method of cooking asparagus is to toss it, either cut in pieces or left whole, with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper it and place it on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees just until tender crisp – about 8 to 12 minutes depending upon the size. This is the perfect way to enjoy asparagus - springs very special gift with the dip below.
Lemon Basil Mayonnaise
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (do not use dried for this)
Grated rind of 1/2 large lemon
Mix all together. This may be made several days ahead.
© Copyright, Helen S. Fletcher, 2010. All Rights Reserved.