Asparagus Stems and Tips, Sliced and Diced, Yield Surprisingly Different Flavors
To me, asparagus is a quintessential sign of spring. While available in the groceries year-round, there is nothing quite like fresh spears–green, purple, and white–harvested locally every spring. If you Google asparagus, one of the first things to pop up are the words stinky pee. In an article for Eating Well Magazine, Cheryl Forberg, R.D. addresses this rather taboo subject by saying, “. . . asparagus contains a unique compound that, when metabolized, gives off a distinctive smell in the urine. Young asparagus contains higher concentrations of the compound, so the odor is stronger after eating these vernal shoots. There are, however, no harmful effects, either from the sulfuric compounds or the odor! While it is believed that most people produce these odorous compounds after eating asparagus, few people have the ability to detect the smell.”
So, if you have been avoiding asparagus for the aforementioned reason, I think it is safe to say that you should not let its odorous qualities deter you from adding this lovely green stalk to your dinner plate! Focus instead on its many health benefits. This nutrient-rich vegetable is purportedly a natural diuretic, high in antioxidants, with brain-booster and cancer-fighting properties.
Asparagus may be roasted, steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, or eaten raw–yes, RAW. It may be chopped and pureed, added to soups, salads, pasta, and quiche.
Asparagus bundles, tied with chives, make an elegant side dish for succulent lamb chops and buttered new potatoes.
Simple Recipes to Celebrate the Versatility of Asparagus, Harbinger of Spring
Raw Asparagus Salad (Four Servings)
For a crunchy, fresh-tasting treat, try one of Mark Bittman’s delectable salads. They’re as simple as slice and shave raw asparagus spears and toss with a light dressing. Italian-Style or Japanese-Style. Take your pick!
1½–2 pounds asparagus, any thickness
For Italian Style: For Japanese Style:
Olive oil to taste 1 Tbsp. sesame seed
Lemon juice to taste 1 tsp. sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste 2 tsp. rice vinegar
Freshly shaved Parmesan to taste Salt and pepper to taste
Cut off the woody bottoms of the asparagus spears; discard. Cut off the flower ends and set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the dark green outer skins of each spear. Set aside. Cut remaining stalks diagonally into 1/4 inch rounds. Place the asparagus stalks, ribbons, and stems in large bowl.
Italian-Style: Sprinkle the asparagus with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and top with parmesan.
Japanese-Style: Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Combine the toasted sesame seeds with sesame oil and rice vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon dressing over asparagus and toss gently.
Whip up a pesto and serve it with chicken or fish, or toss it with pasta. The pasta pictured here is pappardelle, but twisted pasta varieties–such as fusilli, gemelli, or orecchiette–are best for absorbing the pesto.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2″ segments
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper/ salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt to the pot. Add asparagus and cook until tender, not mushy, about 8 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Cool asparagus slightly before transferring to a food processor. Add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, Parmesan, pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of cooking liquid. Process the mixture, gradually adding olive oil and more cooking liquid if necessary. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse.
You can watch Mr. Bittman make these two asparagus salads: www.nytimes.com/video/asparagus-salad-two-ways