This asparagus salad is like all things asparagus. Here today gone tomorrow. That’s because it features those big fat spears that are only available for a very short time.
So I advice, whether it’s this asparagus salad or some other preparation, eat springtime asparagus as often as you can get your hands on it. It’s already past the official “first day” of spring so there’s not much time to get cracking on the remaining weeks (days?) of the very best of the jumbo asparagus spears.
Just for the record, I’ve followed my own advice on this subject for years. So I’ve learned a few things.
Or maybe I should say ‘unlearned’ a few things. Because the big, fat jumbo asparagus spears are so fleeting (and I’ll admit pricey) a lot of lore has popped up around the blogosphere regarding the proper care and treatment of these green goddesses. However, like most persnickety rules, half the stuff you hear about asparagus is a load of garden manure.
Starting with the idea that the skinny spears are the “baby” asparagus. Well sorry that’s just false. Thin asparagus spears are usually produced on mature plants and from the furthest tips from the center of the plant. They tend to be stronger flavored and a bit woodier in texture. Which does not mean they are not wonderfully delicious, but it does dictate how you might choose to use them. Thin asparagus is very good for grilling, and stir-frying. Any quick hot method of cooking suits them well. Their strong asparagus flavor is a good match for bold flavors like garlic, black pepper, sharp cheese and cured meats. But I also like to slice them thin to be used in pasta, risotto and soup.
Jumbo Asparagus Salad
To me the jumbo fat asparagus are best served simply. They are milder and creamier in flavor than your “everyday” asparagus. Still, they come from the same set of roots as the thin spears. In fact the jumbos come from the biggest very healthiest part, usually near the center and often from young or newly planted shoots. They’re very good at taking the starring role in a recipe as in this asparagus salad.
But there’s more lore out there. Some of the least helpful information has you tying the asparagus up in a bundle, wrapping it in a damp tea towel prior to steaming it standing straight up (in a special pot no less). I’m hoping for dinner, not a new vocation.
The only advice I’ve come across that’s any good at all is to peel the stalks of fat asparagus. This removes some of the fibrous strings, and it helps the asparagus cook properly. Without the peels the stalks cook a bit quicker than the tips. Giving you tender stalks and crisp tips. Which is exactly what I’d call cooking this asparagus salad properly– and the only advice I tend to offer. GREG