I keep a garden journal and, most of the time, it provides a good guide to how things went in the vegetable and flower beds from year to year and inspiration for new plantings. But occasionally, it can be depressing. Take, for instance, my fledgling asparagus. As you may know, planting this delectable veggie is a three year process… plant and wait and wait and wait.
Last year, at the two year mark, I made this journal note on May 19: “Asparagus is enormous!” Cutting it, however, was forbidden by all sound garden advise to insure proper root development. Patience! This year is the year of harvest but, on May 19 there wasn’t a single spear to be seen. Morosely, I surveyed the bed; then consulted with more experienced asparagus farmers. We’re three weeks behind, they told me. Patience! Here we are at the end of May and finally, this week, the long awaited tips have appeared and they are growing taller at a steady clip. Not tall enough for harvest yet, but I can see a dinner featuring asparagus in my near future. Talk about delayed gratification!
The wait is definitely worth it, if you’re an asparagus fan. Thanks to international shipping, we can eat asparagus nearly all year. But the lack of freshness and depleted nutrition make it far less than optimal. By contrast, perhaps next week, I can have spears from my own garden steamed, roasted, or stir fried on my plate in a matter minutes! Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare this sensational vegetable. They are both quick and easy and guaranteed to be delicious.
This is my go-to recipe, an all-time favorite! If you think you don’t care for asparagus, it will convert you. Simply, place asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle spears with olive oil and roll them until coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425° oven for about 10 minutes until browned on bottom. Shake pan to turn asparagus and roast another 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Set up steamer and put asparagus spears in the upper basket. Steam for 6-10 minutes depending on thickness… just don’t let them get mushy! Add salt and pepper and dress with Hollandaise Sauce.
Hollandaise Sauce is one of those indulgences that makes an everyday meal seem gourmet and turns an ordinary vegetable into something sublime. It has a reputation for being difficult, but I’ve found a method that is simple and almost foolproof. I call it 1-2-3 Hollandaise: 1 stick of butter cut in quarters, 2 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Place egg yolks and lemon juice into a small saucepan and whisk together. Add the butter and place pan over medium heat. The only trick is to stir constantly. Don’t neglect this or it will separate. (If this happens, just add another egg yolk and whisk away. It should come back.) As the butter melts, it will emulsify into a thick, pale yellow sauce. Once thickened, remove from the heat. That’s it! It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
Let this be just the beginning of your experiments with asparagus. Asparagus omelets, frittatas, risottos, and soups, asparagus in pasta or on toast or garlic bread… cookbooks and the internet are brimming with recipes. Celebrate the arrival of spring with some of them. Asparagus and spring fit so perfectly together. Here in Maine, we wait so long for both but, like so many things that require our patience, it is well worth it. Enjoy!