Thursday, June 2, 2011


There used to be just a couple of recipes I would make when asparagus was in season. One has sautéed asparagus with tarragon, bacon and balsamic vinegar and was the inspiration for this pasta dish. The other is a quick and delicious salad of tender-crisp lightly steamed asparagus with a sesame-soy dressing. I should really have been perfectly happy with these two recipes, since they are satisfying enough to carry me through the short local asparagus season. I had to get all fiddly and experimental, however, especially when I got bold and silly enough to start flinging my food thoughts and recipe journal out into the infonet super blogway or whatever the kids are calling this here series of tubes these days.

The result was my loss, since, in spite of getting at least a few pounds of fresh and lovely organic asparagus from the CSA, I’m pretty sure I didn’t make either of these dishes at all last year. It may even have been two years since I made the sesame-soy asparagus. That’s just sad. In fact, I found it so sad that as soon as I got my CSA box and washed and packed the perfectly beautiful baby lettuces and spinach, I made the sesame-soy asparagus.

Okay, so maybe I did some other things before I got to it. It was really a beautiful day. The point is that I got to eat this dish, and I’m feeling really foolish for having gone without it during any asparagus season since I discovered it.

This dish is so easy to make, you might be surprised at how flavorful it is. Soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and garlic, plus the fresh ginger that I added to the original recipe, make up a fragrant and tasty dressing that simply needs to be stirred together before it is poured over asparagus that has been steamed for a few minutes in the microwave. The dish needs to chill for an hour or so while the asparagus soaks up the dressing, but still maintains its quintessential green-as-spring flavor.

If you like Asian flavors and the sharp zing of garlic and ginger, this could really be the only asparagus recipe you need to know. Memorize it and shape it to your liking. Keep a bowl of it in the refrigerator all season long. (It will keep for at least a few days.) Whatever you do, don’t neglect it like I have. It has taken me some time to realize my error, but now I think I’m fully recovered. Sure, I’ll probably continue to flirt with other asparagus recipes. I’m just too exuberant about the stuff…and about new recipes. But I do have a feeling that I’ll always be coming back to this one.

Sesame-Soy Asparagus with Garlic and Ginger
Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1. Cut the trimmed asparagus into 1- 1 ½ inch pieces, keeping the tips intact if desired. Place the asparagus and water in a microwave-safe dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Poke several holes in the plastic wrap to allow steam to escape while cooking.

2. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients to make the dressing. Very carefully remove the plastic wrap from the asparagus. (Avoid any steam that may still be trapped in the dish. I’ve burned myself this way, and don’t want you to get hurt!) Pour the dressing over the asparagus and stir.

4. Cover the asparagus and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you have a chance, stir a few times while it is chilling. Refrigerate leftovers for a few days.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Asparagus and Pasta with Balsamic-Tarragon Sauce and Bacon; Seitan Stir Fry with Asparagus, Green Beans and Black Bean Garlic Sauce

One year ago: Noodles with Cilantro, Green Onions and Peanuts

Two years ago: Deconstructed Spanakopita Salad

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