In Season Cuisine: asparagus

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
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Freshly picked English asparagus tastes so much better than the anaemic, jet-lagged variety that’s available in the UK throughout the rest of the year. At its freshest, crunchiest best in April, May and June, it’s the perfect ingredient for all kinds of late spring meals.

Part of the lily family, asparagus has a distinctive flavour, quite unlike any other vegetable, that survives most cooking processes and adds character to many dishes. But the quality of the vegetable deteriorates rapidly after picking, so make sure you get it now while it’s still growing locally. To make the most of the brief asparagus season, why not experiment with different ways of cooking it?

One of the simplest ways to enjoy asparagus is to grill it with a little olive oil. The young asparagus that’s available at this time of year is quite firm, so you might want to parboil it first. Then you can season it with sea salt and parmesan to make a delicious side-dish.

For al fresco dining, asparagus tastes fantastic straight off the barbecue, served alongside kebabs, burgers and grilled mushrooms. This method doesn’t usually require parboiling, as the barbecue pan should generate sufficient heat.

Whether steamed, boiled or grilled, asparagus can be dressed up as a main course or extra special side dish with the addition of a warm and flavoursome sauce. Hollandaise sauce is the best known, but there are plenty of delicious (and less fiddly to cook!) alternatives.

You can make a light and tasty lemon and chive dressing, using plenty of the delicious herbs that are also in season right now. Or for a healthier alternative to Hollandaise, try this yoghurt dressing to make a mouth-watering asparagus salad.

Image: Woodleywonderworks

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