Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Toledo Talks -- Asparagus, a Taste of Springtime

Toledo Cats
When the asparagus spears start cropping up in the garden, it's a sure sign spring is here. If you're lucky enough to have an established crop, you can enjoy this delicious vegetable almost every day from early spring until the heat sets in. If you're planting a crop this year, you'll need to be patient. Asparagus takes about 2 years from the time you plant it until you can get a good harvest. Sure, you might get a harvest one year after you plant it, but don't get greedy. If you do, you'll likely be starting over.

If you aren't growing it, you can find it at the grocery store or, better yet, at an organic market. Asparagus doesn't have a very long shelf life, in fact it's best if you eat it the same day you pick it, so you need to be careful to choose stalks that are firm. Store them in the fridge with a moist paper towel around them if you can't use them all at once.

Asparagus has so much good stuff in it, you can almost feel its energy when you eat it. The fresher it is, the better.

Some people don't like asparagus because it smells like urine when you boil it. The trick to avoiding that problem is not not boil it. It's tasty raw, lightly sautéed, or grilled. The key is to not overcook it. Asparagus is best still a bit crisp.

I'd like to share a recipe that's quick and easy, yet elegant and tasty. Best of all, you can make it in a single electric frying pan. First lay thin cut raw breakfast steaks along the bottom of the pan. I figure two steaks per person, but depending on the size of the steak and the appetites of the people you are feeding, you might need more or fewer. Spread cream cheese across the breakfast steak. Cut the asparagus spears in sections about the same length as the steak. Lay two asparagus spears on each steak. Add a thin slice of deli turkey on top.

Cook it at medium-low heat (around 325F) for about 10 minutes, or until the steak is just about done the way you want it. Pour in 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup of your favorite  spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with some crushed pecans, some finely chopped broccoli, and your favorite grated cheese. Cook another 5 minutes and serve.

It's especially good served with a nice red wine, such as a Merlot, and a chunk of crusty sourdough bread. At least that's the way I like to eat it.

Enjoy!

I'd like to thank Paul's Farm Fresh Produce for the wonderful fresh asparagus, broccoli, and pecans used in the photo shoot. I'd also like to thank the butcher at Mike's Market  for cutting the breakfast steaks just the way I like them. The meal was delicious.

If you'd like to learn more about asparagus, here are some links.

The World's Healthiest Foods
Asparagus-Lovers.com
Asparagus Growing Guide