Warm weather has arrived, and with it comes the most fresh and delicious food that Canada has to offer. This week we are focusing on fresh asparagus.
Asparagus is a perennial, meaning that it must be planted a few years before it is harvested, but once it is mature it can be harvested for decades after. In Canadian weather, there is about a one month period during which it is optimal to harvest and eat asparagus, occurring in Ontario between late-May and June… that’s now!
North Americans are accustomed to green asparagus, although it comes in white and purple varieties as well. The taste is earthy and very distinct, making asparagus an excellent addition to multitudes of meals and recipes. Asparagus is said to pair well with seafood, poultry, meat, fruits and vegetables, and grains – essentially everything! Because of its enjoyable flavour, asparagus does not need to be highly processed in order to consume.
Asparagus is low in calories and sodium, and high in vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It is also a good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.
When selecting fresh asparagus from the field or market, ensure that the stocks are not large and over-matured.When asparagus matures to this point the base of the stock becomes woody and inedible. I personally prefer the smaller stocks as I believe that they are the most tender and flavourful.
Here are some delicious recipes to help you incorporate fresh asparagus into your diet today.
Grilled asparagus with olive oil, lemon & Parmesan: Simply delicious and really quick.
Sourced from: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/grilled-asparagus-with-olive-oil-lemon-and-parmesan
- 2 big handfuls asparagus, about 800g
- 1 squeeze lemon juice
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 block Parmesan, for grating
You will need to wash 2 big handfuls or 800g of whichever kind of asparagus you’re using, with their woody ends snipped off.
This is a great combination. Parmesan, olive oil and lemon are wonderful with asparagus. Heat a large griddle pan and dry-griddle the asparagus spears on both sides until nicely marked. As soon as they’re ready, put them on to four plates and dress with a good squeeze of lemon juice and three times as much olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, then take a block of Parmesan to the table and either grate or shave some over the asparagus with a speed peeler.
Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
Sourced from: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30697-crispy-prosciutto-wrapped-asparagus
- 34 medium asparagus spears, ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 17 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
- Heat the oven to broil and arrange a rack about 5 to 6 inches below the heating element. Set a large plate aside.
- Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle it with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss until the spears are evenly coated with the oil. Transfer them to the large plate and set the baking sheet aside.
- Starting just under the scaled tip of the asparagus, warp each spear with 1 slice of prosciutto in a downward spiral toward the cut end, just barely overlapping the seams of the prosciutto. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining asparagus, leaving as much space as possible between each spear while still fitting all of them onto the baking sheet. (Make sure the spears don’t actually touch, or the asparagus and prosciutto will steam and won’t crisp.)
- Broil for 3 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven, and flip the asparagus over. Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue to broil until the asparagus is charrer in spots and the prosciutto is crisped and browned, about 3 minutes more.