What's in season: One of the sure signs that spring is upon us is that beautiful bunches of both slender and jumbo asparagus, a member of the lily family, are now hitting the markets. We spotted Roscoe Zuckerman at the Santa Monica farmers market with the first of his family farm's famous delta asparagus last Saturday. A longtime local favorite, Zuckerman's jumbo asparagus sold out before noon, and he was replenishing slender bunches as quickly as they were snatched up by customers. Weather depending, you should be able to find local asparagus into the early summer months.
What's on the horizon: Those spring blossoms may be for more than just decoration. Edible spring blossoms, such as delicate but peppery arugula and vibrant yellow broccoli rabe, work well in a variety of recipes, whether added at the last minute or used as a garnish. Check with the farmer to make sure the blossoms are indeed edible and grown for consumption, along with suggestions for using.
What to cook: There's no need to peel thin asparagus; use the delicate spears quickly blanched and tossed with salads, or add last minute to cook with a pasta or rice dish. Peel away the woody stalks of thicker asparagus, and consider roasting or grilling the jumbo spears.
JAPANESE ASPARAGUS WITH POUNDED SESAME SAUCE
Total time: 30 minutes | Serves 2
1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Snap or cut off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. If the asparagus spears are thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel the lower 2/3 of the stalk. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam until the spears are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Place the sesame seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat until they turn light brown and become aromatic, 1 minute. Watch carefully; they tend to brown quickly. Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle.
3. Combine the seeds with the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and lemon juice. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and pour the sesame sauce over the top.
Each serving: 92 calories; 1,026 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 3.38 grams fiber.