the last word





seems like there is no end to asparagus. but asparagus pesto? (nyt, the minimalist, may seven) my italian goes deep enough to know that pesto does not mean paste. it translates as pounded, crushed, ground, eventually possibly pulp. but that’s about it. besides who’d want to eat asparagus paste? when you puree unpeeled asparagus in a cuisineart or some such like, it will turn to flitchy paste, likely with a consistency of green glue. especially if said asparagus has been boiled for ten minutes. the very idea. the stuff should be steamed, or grilled, three to four minutes the most. if you grill yours keep the fire low to avoid scorching. some say, once steamed or grilled, the spears must be plunged into icy water. this stops further cooking. it also thins out the fragrance. i’d rather do the steam a little shorter and roll the spears in a pan from the freezer. you might turn them in a little olive oil to keep the stalks smooth. but, please, not for a pesto.
to peel or not to peel, all will depend on how fresh the stalks are. and what color. a fat white will always need peeling. a peeled violetto has likely more tender a bite. if your greens don’t snap, then peel, it likely also means the stuff sat around for too long. pencil asparagus oughtn’t need peeling, in fact i eat them raw, fresh from the garden.
local asparagus season is short. for the white it last barely a month, for the purple likely less. and the green is really over and done by mid june. there is always asparagus ‘out of season’. generally i don’t do the southern hemisphere. it involves too much travel, jet fuel and unknown conditions, even if the label might indicate ‘organic’, that rancid password rendered by now fly by night, furtively fickle.
so eat. eat local, in a pollan way and enjoy while the opulence lasts. here are some ways to prepare what you have.
for the white: steam till gently tender, about 8 or so minutes, depending on the girth of your stalks. roll in a hazelnut butter, serve with new potatoes, prosciutto cotto, chopped hardboileds, this being traditional german fare.
another perhaps more elegant way preparing this serious luxury has it tenderly steamed in a dry sake, staged across blanched small-leaf spinach, spicy, wasabi induced.
violetta is mentioned below. it works supreme with wild salmon, but snow white alaskan halibut, done up in olive oil, with sage and a capricious amount of capers makes for a terrific alternate.
finally the green: in inch length, with quartered red radish and pan fried, as an aside to a pork tenderloin, or as in a salad with grated parmesan. and with morels in the market what better a combo, perhaps best served as breakfast, with a poached egg and champagne after a conjugal night.
above aside, i admit my very favorite is the pencil. and lots of it. freshly cut, raw, dipped in a lemony hollandaise, or plain, right there in the tall grass.
anywhichway (my word), it all comes down to the certain delight. the bailiwick of return, what spring is about: short skirts, mild airs and asparagus, whether old british ‘sparrowgrass’, or a texan’s way of yawling ‘aspergrass’ or that fabled concoction, the ‘schw√§bische’ notion of ‘spargel’.