Michelle Palmer: Springtime and asparagus is in the air (recipe)

Asparagus time is spring time. This is the time of the year when it is in season at the best flavor and the best price.

Asparagus is one of the first plants that greet us in springtime! It’s a perennial, which means that once it gets established, the tender spears will return year after year. In addition, its ferny foliage makes an excellent ornamental.

Asparagus, or garden asparagus, folk name sparrow grass, scientific name Asparagus officinalis, is a perennial flowering plant species in the genus Asparagus. Its young shoots are used as a spring vegetable. It was once classified in the lily family, like the related Allium species, onions and garlic.

However, genetic research places lilies, Allium, and asparagus in three separate families — the Liliaceae, Amaryllidaceae, and Asparagaceae, respectively — with the Amaryllidaceae and Asparagaceae being grouped together in the order Asparagales. Sources differ as to the native range of Asparagus officinalis, but generally include most of Europe and western temperate Asia. It is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop. This popular vegetable comes in a variety of colors, including green, white and purple.

There are so many ways to prepare it; whether prepared as a soup, standalone side or as part of a larger entrée, asparagus is a delicious and healthy veggie. Asparagus is also low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

When I bring my asparagus home I like to cut the bottoms ½” off like you would fresh flowers. Put then fresh cut ends in a bit of fresh water in a glass jar in the refrigerator. I like to use a Swiss Peeler ($5 William Sonoma) that is super sharp and an olive oil hand pump spritzer so there is no alcohol.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS

1 pound fresh asparagus stems peeled
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon herb de provence

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Rinse and peel asparagus; shake off residual water.
3. Lay asparagus side by side single layer in rimmed pan lined with parchment paper for easy cleaning.
4. Spritz asparagus lightly with olive oil.
5. Sprinkle kosher salt and black pepper over asparagus.
6. Put Herb de Provence in palm of your hand rub together to release the oils. Sprinkle over asparagus.
7. Slide tray into preheated oven and roast until the green brightens tender but still crisp.
8. Remove from pan quickly so it does not continue to cook
9. Approximately 25 minutes.
Enjoy!
Michelle Palmer is the creative culinary director of yUMmy at The Urban Market and Gift Basket Co. She has been cooking in the area for over three decades, and is owner of Absolutely Michelle’s Chef-for-Hire.

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