Monday, May 18, 2009

asparagus with lemon and parmesan

Remember when we talked about being loyal to the asparagus? Of seeking at once to preserve and enhance its inherent goodness?

This is what I meant. Parboiled to the perfect degree of tenderness, dressed in lemon zest, parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil—it's asparagus as Nature intended.

Asparagus for Loyalists
Adapted from Simply Recipes

This recipe comes from Selland's Market (yes, Selland's of Shrimp Louie fame), which means it's loyal to our hometown as well.

1 bunch of asparagus, woody stems removed
2 tablespoons good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the asparagus into 1- to 2-inch sections, slicing on the bias.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the hot water. While the asparagus are still hot, toss them with the olive oil, parmesan, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


  1. this looks absolutely dewishuss. not to mention that it is from sacramento. what's your philosophy on how to trim the woody stems? are you still breaking them at their natural point, or is their a better way?

  2. Sometimes, I'll just snap, then trim the ends so they're even. This method feels more nostalgic than anything else. (J'adore the snapping sound.)

    But yes, there's a better way, technically. Cut off the bottom 1-2 inches of the spears en masse. Then, for thick spears, peel the stalk so it's of consistent diameter. (Russ Parsons does a good job of explaining this: "Start peeling from the tip, using gentle pressure, and then gradually increase the pressure toward the base. This will get rid of all the tough parts and leave only the juicy core.") You can also save the discarded bits for asparagus soup.

    And Harold McGee suggests another method in his most recent NY Times column. He says one gets "much more reliably tender results simply by cutting the spears evenly to between 6 and 7 inches from the tip." He slices the discarded ends (all but the very bottoms) into millimeter-thin rounds, and uses them for textural contrast.

    Too much information?