VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.
The Easter 'Wabbit' hops into action this Sunday, predicted to be carrying baskets of brightly-dyed chicken eggs, a colorful scramble of animal husbandry.
Here, along the mid-Atlantic East Coast, the month of April marks the beginning of asparagus season. The harvest runs through the beginning of June. Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial vegetable, originally native to the eastern Mediterranean.
Ah, asparagus: at least this vegetarian's delight. Its tips, nutty and sweet; its spears, just ever-so slightly bitter. Buy it fresh. Eat it fresh. If you must store it, wrap with damp paper towels, and keep in the refrigerator for no more than a few days.
How to cook?Asparagus is so innately flavorful that you don't have to do much (and shouldn't) to enjoy it.
- Steaming is a simple method. (You could microwave, but why?) There's no need to peel. Simply cut off the tough, fibrous ends. (Save for vegetable broth.) In a steamer basket, steam from two to six minutes (thin vs. thick stalks). The asparagus is done when you can easily pierce a spear with a knife. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and s/p, all to taste. Maybe a few sprigs of fresh herb (tarragon?) or a dash or two of prepared Herbes de Provence.
- A tip from Mom: steam the asparagus in an old-school coffee percolator. (I used to do just this, that is, until the percolator was mistakenly discarded.) Tie the stalks together, add water to just below the tips, and boil, upright, for 2-6 minutes. The thicker ends get cooked thoroughly; the succulent tips, lightly steamed. A double-boiler will do, almost as well.
- Asparagus, roasted, develops a hint of caramelized just-so sweetness— and, again, it's simple to prepare. For example, here's my recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Mock Hollandaise Sauce. Of course, you could just serve it, as is, out of the oven, without the hollandaise, with just a spritz of lemon juice.
- Grilling is another option. Even more sweetness and now some smokiness. To prepare, toss in olive oil. Grill removed from open flame for 5 or so minutes: just the non-side of char. Trepidatious? Here's the not-difficult procedure from The Food Network.
- And finally, from The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, by Mollie Katzen, here's a recipe for Gingered Asparagus with Soy Caramel Sauce. Katzen was once a member of the renowned Moosewood collective.
What to drink?Wine? Drunk with asparagus, red wines get all vegetal and metallic. Go white wine, but not oaky chardonnay: woody and vanilla are lousy companions. Try fragrant, spring-like Pinot Blancs and minerally, bracing, Grüner Veltliners.
But, without much doubt, there's beer. Grab a German-inspired Kölsch, märzen, or maibock (in order, light to full-bodied); from the U.K., a bitter (cask-conditioned, if you find it); from Belgium, a singel, Blonde/Golden Ale, or Tripel.
It's Wabbit season. No, it's Duck season.Here, from Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and the animators and writers at Warner Brothers (and voice-over artist Mel Blanc): a 1950s episode of Merrie Melodies. Enjoy with asparagus. Hold the wabbit.