I dared to go off-season this week and it was well worth it.
When Spring rolls around I am on the phone to the local North Fork farms to find out exactly when they will be harvesting asparagus. There is nothing, nothing, nothing better than the sweet, buttery green-ness of fresh-from-the-earth asparagus. I eat it for the six weeks of May and June that it is harvested (nevermind the odd smell of bathroom visits! More on that later), raw, steamed, sauteed, roasted…however.
However, it is not Spring right now! Asparagus may be in season somewhere, but not in my grow Zone.
Usually I stick to our local seasons, but the bunches of asparagus at one of the local grocery stores just looked so good that I got a craving that virtue could not curb. Hey, it’s been a tough holiday and virtue doesn’t seem to be handing out its own rewards at the moment. What the imported stuff lacked in farm-to-table zest, I made up for in garlic.
At $3.99 a lb, you might not find asparagus cheap (especially when you snap a third off the bottom!). Asparagus (which is a member of the lily family) tends to be expensive because it has to be harvested by hand. But it is certainly easy to prepare, and made for a speedy yet chic snack for me and my friend Jamie on a recent playdate (during which the kids ate – you guessed it – pizza).
Please note, you can look very sexy nibbling asparagus if you let yourself go a bit. For that purpose, and for this barely-cooked recipe, I recommend the skinny asparagus over the fat.
Snap and Go Garlic Asparagus
1 bunch fresh asparagus (about a pound), rinsed and trimmed*
1-2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped, not too fine
salt for sprinkling
Heat the oil in a large skillet at medium heat until fragrant. Toss in the garlic, turn to coat, sauté an additional minute, then toss in the asparagus. Stir to coat then allow to cook for 5-10 minutes (the fresher and thinner the shorter the cook time). You can test them after five minutes by trying a stalk. You just want it tender and warm, but not mushy. Sprinkle with salt, and serve.
*Prepping the asparagus is fast and easy, but requires some explaining:
Rinse the stalks. Take one stalk and snap off from the bottom; there will be a natural break (sometimes it’s as far as a third of the way up!), which will scare you because you have spent money on this asparagus, dadgummit! The point, however, is that the stalks can be woody (especially if it is not-so-fresh) and the woodiness creeps up from the bottom. Some people use that first stalk as a measure and use a knife to trim all the rest. I snap each one. Discard the bottoms. Dry the remaining stalks.
(I often use this as a side dish to eggs or steak, but will also just do a pan and eat it with my fingers, as Jamie and I did on Sunday. Delicious and dead simple).
Fun science notes: Now, about the asparagus and urine connection. Apparently some people detect a sulfurous odor in their pee after eating asparagus (I definitely do) and others don’t. The jury is still out on whether that is because some people don’t produce the odor or they just can’t smell the difference. According to some of my online searches, Ben Franklin found the odor disagreeable, while Marcel Proust thought it rather fragrant (so the differences of olfactory opinion between the Yanks and the Franks go waaaaay back and waaaaay deep). At any rate, the odiferous asparagus mystery raises interesting questions about human digestion and sense of smell in general and may hold the key to greater understanding of what the nose knows and why.