Asparagus is one of the first vegetables harvested in the springtime. After a winter full of rain and hardy root vegetables the vibrancy of asparagus is a welcome and longed for sign of better weather and vegetables to come. Whether you purchase the fat asparagus tips or the pencil thin stalks, asparagus is loaded with folic acid, potassium and vitamins such as C, K and B6. For the first week that asparagus is available, I prefer the simplest of preparations. I love asparagus steamed and served unadorned. Asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted (in a 400F oven for 5-7 minutes) is a close second. To prepare asparagus for cooking, first wash it under cold running water. Then, snap or cut off the tough bottom tips. There is a natural snapping point that occurs when the vegetable becomes more tender. If you want exquisitely tender stalks I suggest peeling the lower half of the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. In the picture I steamed the asparagus then served it chilled on a platter drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Dukkah. Dukkah is an Egyptian spice blend that is aromatic with nuts and spices. You may purchase Dukkah or make it yourself. The recipe is below. I keep Dukkah on hand to serve with olive oil and pita bread. I also have used it as a crust for chicken, lamb and fish.
- ½ cup unsalted pistachios
- 3 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds, toasted
- 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. black pepper corns
- 1/2 tsp. salt (if the nuts have been salted skip adding more salt)
- ½ tsp. sugar
Place all of the ingredients in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Pulse until the mixture has the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Transfer to a clean container and cover.