When asparagus starts pushing its way up through the ground, spring has definitely arrived. From late April through early May, asparagus is at its peak of sweetness and tenderness. Asparagus is usually graded for its size, which ranges from pencil thin to cigar thick. Since thin asparagus is tender and more fragile, it’s best used in salads and pasta dishes. Thicker asparagus is better suited to grilling because it doesn’t dry out. For the ultimate in tender, sweet-tasting asparagus, visit a farmers’ market and buy from someone who just cut the spears. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavor from supermarket asparagus.
One of my favorite dishes to cook is a soup made with asparagus puree, which I accent with whipped cream, lemon and tarragon. It can be served warm or cold, but remember, its finished flavor is only as good as the asparagus itself. Chargrilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and topped with grilled artichokes is a simple but sophisticated side dish to any late spring barbecue. Like most children, mine will gobble up anything fried, hence the recipe for asparagus tempura with a ginger-flavored aioli. And finally, you can’t go wrong with a pasta that plays the asparagus’ sweetness against the saltiness of pancetta— just add a simple salad for a perfect lunch or dinner.
Andrew Evans is the chef/owner of the Inn at Easton.