Asparagus Week continues with another dish of medium asparagus. Crudité is great for snacking or as an appetizer for guests. I made this for my family on Sunday and it was all I could do to have some left for pictures. I had to quickly make a few extra spears because my wife had pilfered the spears I set aside for photos.
For the crudité, I am using medium asparagus. When it is blanched, it has a terrific texture and stays stiff enough for dipping. 😉 Boiling isn’t good for pencil asparagus but it’s wonderful for medium and jumbo asparagus. Jumbo asparagus would have to be peeled before you cook it because the outer skin is very fibrous. Once it is peeled, it’s fabulous. I’ve been looking for jumbo asparagus but at this time of year that may be an impossible task.
I also used white asparagus for this dish. You’ll notice that the asparagus are the same thickness. That is important because jumbo white asparagus can be even more fibrous than jumbo green. White asparagus is missing that “green” flavor associated with this veggie and it has a slight bitter note. Our oldest daughter HATES asparagus but loved the white asparagus and even ate the green prepared with this method. She was shocked that she actually liked it. OK, so what is white asparagus? It’s the same plant that green asparagus comes from but as the tops begin to break the surface of the soil, the farmer will come and bury it in the sand and they will keep doing that until it gets to the length they want to harvest. No sun, no photosynthesis, no green color and no strong asparagus flavor.
Blanching is boiling the veggie very quickly and then immediately plunging the spears into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Perfect for crudité! If you were to serve broccoli in a crudité, you would also blanch them. Blanching brings out the sweetness and the dark jade color of the vegetable while slightly cooking the exterior to make the texture more palatable. Another benefit to blanching the asparagus is that it brings out the succulence of the inner flesh.
A yogurt herb dip was prepared for the asparagus. I used chives from my garden for the dip, but you could also substitute the green parts of a scallion (green onion). This is a picture of my chives growing in a flower box filled with organic soil on the front porch. I find it best to grow my own because good quality chives are extremely hard to find in the supermarket. Plus I then have them whenever the mood strikes. These were planted a couple of years ago. Every spring they re-emerge in all their green fragrant glory.
To blanch one bunch of asparagus, fill a sauce pot with 1 quart of water and 1 tablespoon of salt and place over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare an ice bath in a bowl large enough to hold the whole bunch, plus water and ice. One quart of water and one quart of ice should be enough to cool this amount of asparagus. Now snap off the fibrous ends of your asparagus as illustrated in yesterday’s post. Once the water comes to a boil, plunge all of the asparagus into the water for 30 seconds. Best to get a timer ready before you plunge. A few extra seconds will overcook the asparagus and you want them to hold up to dipping. Use tongs to remove the asparagus after the 30 seconds and put them directly into the waiting ice bath. Allow them to chill for 2 minutes, swishing the water around a bit. Remove them to a towel to dry and set them out to be devoured with the dip prepared ahead of time.
- ½ cup whole milk yogurt (I used Kefir) or buttermilk
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp thinly sliced chives or green onions (green parts only)
- ½ tsp dry tarragon or 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
- ¼ tsp grated fresh garlic
- ¼ tsp or to taste kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Serve immediately or chill anywhere from an hour to overnight. The flavor improves with time. It should keep for about 7 days. Enjoy!