The season of the coming is coming asparagus! It is indeed the months from March to June those in which this typical spring vegetable is sold. Delicious and ideal for pairings with delicately flavored foods such as pasta, rice, eggs, fish and white meats, asparagus these days begin to appear on the markets in many different varieties.
Asparagus to be discovered
Large or thin, white, violet and naturally green, of which Italy is a great producer especially in Veneto, Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Campania and Puglia. Let's discover together the main varieties of asparagus with which to delight us at the table.
Green: tasty and variable in size, it is the most common and versatile asparagus in the kitchen. The Green of Altedo Igp is excellent.
White: large, with a gentle taste and renowned for its softness, it is also called "mangiatutto" because it has no waste. Its delicate color originates in cultivation, it grows in fact under the ground and is picked before the top starts from the ground. The pride of Veneto is the white asparagus of Bassano Dop and Cimadolmo Igp.
Violet: colorful and particularly tender, with an intense taste, it is picked as soon as it comes out of the ground. It lends itself perfectly to the preparation of both rustic and delicate dishes. Among the most famous varieties are the violet of Albenga with a buttery consistency without fibrousness Napoli, the violet of Naples and the pink asparagus of Mezzago d’Argenteuil.
Wild: long and thin, it has a rich taste that does not need to be enriched with sauces or too tasty toppings. The end of the stem, earthy and woody, should be removed, the rest should be gently scraped with a small knife or a potato peeler. During cooking, be careful not to break them.
Asparagine: with this term we define the very thin shoots of wild asparagus, ideal for pinzimoni, pies, omelettes and soups.
Mistakes not to be made
There are so many preparations based on asparagus: sophisticated or simple recipes, complicated or easy, all require special care in the preparation and cooking of this particular vegetable. Here are the most common wrong moves to avoid:
Choose them carelessly: when you buy them, check that they are fresh and intact, of a bright color and without dents. Fresh are tough, with the stem that does not bend but – if forced – it breaks. Check that the tips are well closed, upright and crunchy and that the firm but not woody stems have a uniform color, without spots. An extra eye for asparagus in the center of the bunch, because they tend to deteriorate faster.
Do not peel the remaining stem: in theory, once you have measured the asparagus – aligning it on the side of the tip and eliminating the hard part of the stem, on the other side – there would be no need to peel the part that remained attached to the tip. Mistaken. Tender inside, even the thin wild asparagus can be fibrous on the outside: arm yourself with potato peeler or a paring knife, and scrape it from the tip (excluding it) towards the stem, with a very light hand (you will not want to find yourself with asparagus in julienne!) .
Do not use the asparagus: tall and narrow, equipped with a basket and lid, the asparagus is the pot designed specifically for asparagus. For an optimal cooking they must be placed in the basket, closed in bunches and with the points facing upwards; the water in the pot should reach only half of the stem and do not forget the lid: in this way the stems will boil while the tips, softer, will steam, remaining more crispy. They will be ready when they "bow their heads". Alternatively, cook them lying down with steam, with a little water, checking the cooking because when the tips are ready the thicker stems will be a little behind.
Use the same cooking for all preparations: we saw that the asparagus is perfect for a perfect cooking. Choose it sand you want to cook the asparagus to serve them whole as a side dish, perhaps accompanied by a hollandaise sauce, the Venetian one with mimosa eggs or the classic fried egg, with melted butter and flaked Parmesan. For risotto, creams, mousses, velvety, pies, omelettes, salads or pinzimoni, you can scald them just in salt water if they are thick; but don't boil them: they would absorb too much water. Alternatively, use them uncooked: pass them in a pan after having cut the stems into slices, leaving only the tips whole and proceed with cooking, remembering to start with the washers and join the tips only later. Wild asparagus and asparagine, even if thin, should always be scalded. Remember that white asparagus is preferable to steam them, because if boiled they would absorb too much water due to their particular softness.
Throw away the scraps: don't make the mistake of throwing the eliminated stems; wash them, peel them and boil them in salted water or vegetable broth for about twenty minutes. Once cooked, you can blend them directly in the broth: it will be perfect to prepare an excellent risotto. Alternatively you can drain them and then blend them with a little butter and grated Parmesan, checking the density of the mixture by adding 1 boiled potato and a few tablespoons of the cooking broth: the cream obtained is a greedy one seasoning for pasta or, if you stretch it more, a particular one velvety, garnished with parmesan flakes, asparagus tips, buttered and some croutons.
updated March 2019 by Claudia Minnella
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