Fresh Spring Asparagus with Olive Oil and Vinegar
For a great many gourmet chefs and for those who simply enjoy fresh gourmet food the month of May is anticipated with a degree of relish as, it is the time of year that there is an abundance of fresh harvested asparagus. In Europe, the popularity of asparagus is manifested by some restaurants that devote asparagus to each course!
In the world of gourmets, asparagus is widely considered to be the ultimate vegetable and is revered not only for its aesthetically appealing appearance, which is often compared to exotic flowering plants but for its wonderful flavour. Ironically, the asparagus plant belongs to the Lily genus.
So, not only is asparagus appealing to the eye and the taste buds but it is an excellent source of vitamin B which is found in folic acid and is essential in the production of red blood cells. Asparagus has even been said to promote a sense of responsibility, according to a famous Swiss psychologist.
If you wish to cultivate your own asparagus you should do so with a degree of patience as it takes up to three years to achieve a respectable crop. If you do persevere, and if asparagus is cultivated carefully, you can enjoy subsequent crops for up to fifteen years.
Asparagus comes in two colours, white and green. Which is best is a question of preference. In parts of Europe, especially France, Germany, Holland and Belgium the distinctive purple tipped white asparagus is usually preferred. However, in Italy and England green asparagus is more commonplace than white. Both varieties are found in the United States though green asparagus is generally preferred.
It has been documented that wild asparagus was discovered growing close to water, either on river banks or coastal areas with sandy beaches by early settlers. In 1672 a domestic variety of asparagus was introduced to New England and in that same part of the seventeenth century asparagus was cultivated by a Dutch consul in Massachusetts.
When selecting asparagus look for young, evenly coloured, closed petal spears, paying attention to the cut ends of the stalks which should be smooth and display an even color.
The way to cook asparagus can vary but it is generally accepted that the spears should be stood upright and placed in water, ensuring that the tips are not submerged. Or, asparagus can be cooked on its side in a wide shallow pan of water providing the stalks are secured in bunches.
Depending on the size and thickness of the stalks asparagus can be cooked in less than six minutes in a microwave. All that is required is a microwave proof dish that is about 4 inches by 8 inches in size. Pyrex dishes are ideal. Place the asparagus stalks on their side in your chosen dish and cover with a little water, one or two inches should be sufficient. Select medium high heat. If the stalks are quite thick a little extra time may be required.
A delicious idea for a simple salad is to combine chilled asparagus that has been steamed with some sliced tomatoes and orange. The orange and tomato flavor is enhanced by the addition of olive oil and vinegar.
Oil and vinegar with asparagus, asparagus and olive oil
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