Julie Giuffrida is Test Kitchen coordinator for the Los Angeles Times.
Skinny, fat, green, white or purple, all asparagus spears are delicious. Choose based on whether you will use it as an ingredient or the main vegetable.
Before I knew better, my favorite thing about asparagus was that it is socially acceptable to eat it with one’s fingers. Of course, there are more substantial reasons to adore these spears of spring. Along with its deliciousness, asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse. It is full of folate, glutathione, vitamin A, and vitamin C, minerals and vitamins that help prevent birth defects, maintain healthy vision, support the immune system, and promote the growth, development and repair of body tissue. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi calls asparagus “a god among vegetables” often lecturing anyone who will listen about its splendor. It can be prepared any number of ways, there is very little waste, and it plays nicely with others. Whether you prefer your asparagus thick or thin, green, white or purple — it’s in season now. These recipes offer a range of techniques and treatments of this much-loved delicacy.
If you want to focus on the asparagus itself, perhaps serving it as an appetizer or a main dish, cook thicker spears whole and serve them with a complementary sauce. Boil them and top with an eggy, herby sauce mimosa. Pan-roast them to bring out the flavor and present them with a creamy hollandaise. Steam them and drizzle with a lemony, herby brown butter sauce or top them with a fried egg and let the runny yolk coat the stalks.
Use thinner, cut-up stalks in dishes with other ingredients, such as this spring sauté. It celebrates the season with delicate baby artichokes, fresh fava beans, green garlic and peas. Grill asparagus spears and incorporate them into a tostada together with fresh herbs, cotija cheese and a Charred Tomatillo Chermoula sauce. Mix them — sliced but not cooked, into a frittata with some diced ham for a flavorful brunch dish or incorporate them into a risotto with shrimp (using the cut-off ends of the stalks along with the shrimp shells to make a stock).
Asparagus takes as easily to a mix of ingredients as it does to being the star of the dish.
Asparagus in sauce mimosa
Boil or steam thick, jumbo asparagus work best with this classic garnish. The yolks of the minced, hard-cooked eggs turn the vinaigrette creamy.
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Pan-roasted asparagus with dill hollandaise sauce
Pan-roasting the asparagus brings out the vegetable's flavor while keeping its lovely crunch. The hollandaise, torqued with finely minced dill is a classic match for the asparagus.
Steamed asparagus with brown butter sauce
Jumbo asparagus are quickly steamed, coated with a lemony brown butter and sprinkled with fresh, minced chervil and parsley.
Asparagus with bread crumb-fried eggs
The toasted bread crumbs add crispness to the eggs, and the vinegar finish keeps them from being too rich. The runny yolk and vinegar are like a sauce for the steamed asparagus.
Everything in this dish is green, albeit of different hues. The shapes and forms vary, including the complicated artichoke, the layers of asparagus tips and the hidden geometry of peas.
YieldsMakes 4 to 6 cups of mixed vegetables
Grilled Asparagus Tostadas with Charred Tomatillo Chermoula
Grilled asparagus makes a smoky topping for tostadas enlivened with tomatillo chermoula.
Time1 hour 30 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Asparagus and ham frittata
Asparagus is sliced and sauteed with diced ham and parsley, mixed into lightly beaten eggs, cooked until the eggs set, topped with Parmesan cheese and broiled until just brown.
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Asparagus and shrimp risotto
The secret to this risotto is a flavorful broth. Use the asparagus trimmings and shrimp shells to make it.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6
I still love that I can’t be chastised for eating asparagus with my fingers, but now I relish doing so even more.