Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Farm fresh asparagus with Asian flavors

By Phyllis Louise Harris
May/June 2014

Now that spring has finally arrived and farmers’ markets are opening we can look forward to the wonderful farm fresh food we have been missing all winter. Asparagus will be one of the first vegetables to arrive.

While we often see asparagus boiled and served with hollandaise sauce it is very versatile. It can be used in curries, stir-fried with a little ginger, steamed, oven roasted or grilled. All treatments start with the same preparation. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears at the point that they easily break away from the tender portion. If you prefer even ends rather than the ragged ends left by the snapping, trim the ends after snapping. Some people even peel away the outer layer of the lower spear to make it even more tender. Wash the spears and if you are going to stir-fry, roast or grill them, dry them with a paper towel.

For grilling, brush the asparagus spears with vegetable oil. Place them on a hot grill turning them until they are brown on all sides and just barely tender, but still crisp.  Remove them from the heat and brush then with a light soy sauce then re-grill them for a few seconds. Not too long or they will burn. Serve warm with lemon wedges.

Another Asian twist is marinating the boiled spears in seasoned rice vinegar. Boil the prepared asparagus spears in plain water just until they are fork tender (about six to eight minutes). Drain and immediately plunge them into ice water. Let them cool completely then drain thoroughly. Place the spears in a container that keeps them flat in layers. Mix one part seasoned rice vinegar with an equal part of water and pour over the spears. (One bunch of asparagus spears usually takes about one cup vinegar and one cup water.) Add enough marinade to cover the spears. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to eight hours. Drain the spears and serve cold. I sometimes decorate the spears with slices of roasted red peppers.

The spears can be left in the marinade over night and are good the next day. But, at some point the vinegar will start to change their bright green color into more ashen hues and while they are still good to eat they are not quite as pretty. (Fresh green beans that have been boiled until just tender are also good in this marinade.)

Most supermarkets now carry seasoned rice vinegar as well as plain rice vinegar. They are easy to tell apart. The seasoned vinegar is a pale tan color while the plain vinegar is perfectly clear. The color comes from the seasonings that include soy sauce.

Visit your local farmers’ market and see the wide array of wonderful food available each week fresh from the fields. For a free guide to Minnesota’s markets go to www3.mda.state.mn.us. Filled with information on pick-your-own food, farm stays, wine tastings and so much more, it is a great guide for day trips around the state.

Happy summer!!



Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, now in bookstores and on amazon.com.

Buy online:  Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875  

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: http://www.mnvideovault.org/mvvPlayer/customPlaylist2.php?id=24552&select_index=0&popup=yes#0