At a mere 20 calories/serving (8 medium spears), the first green stalk of the season is a welcome addition to springtime meals.
buying: Look for straight, crisp spears with green or purple tips and tight heads. Freshness counts, not size. One pound (500 g) makes 2-4 servings. Buy lots, eat fresh, or refrigerate for two or three days.
Wrap stem ends in damp paper towels, then cover entire bunch with plastic wrap, or stand straight up in a pitcher of water.
prepare: Wash in cold, running water to remove sand or grit. Snap off and discard tough, woody ends then use a vegetable peeler to lightly peel the bottom of the stalks for an even more tender bite.
cook: Don't overdo it - you want asparagus full of nutrients and flavour, with a crisp texture. Thin spears may need less than three minutes. To speed cooking of thick spears, cut an "X" in the bottom of each stalk. Add enough water in saucepan to just cover asparagus. Cook until tender and crisp, drain well. To serve cold or use in a recipe that calls for cooked asparagus, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, then pat dry and refrigerate until needed. To grill, line up asparagus in row; skewer through centre using metal or soaked bamboo skewers. Lightly brush with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Barbecue over medium heat until tender, 3 to 6 minutes.
2 small lemons
3/4 cup (175 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tbsp (22.5 mL) minced garlic
Two 3- to 4-inch sprigs fresh thyme
3 tbsp (45 mL) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 lb. (454g) asparagus, grilled or blanched
With a vegetable peeler, peel the zest from the lemons in strips. Remove any white pith from the strips of zest. In a small saucepan, heat the lemon zest, oil, garlic, and thyme over low heat until the oil just begins to bubble, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not brown the garlic, or it will taste bitter. Transfer the mixture to a small heatproof bowl; remove the zest and thyme sprigs with a fork or tongs. Stir in the parsley; serve over grilled or blanched asparagus.