Are you looking for new ways to prepare this lovely spring vegetable? Asparagus is versatile as it is delicious, and can be cooked in a number of ways or even eaten raw.
White or green asparagus?
Asparagus can be white or green. The green variety is rich in asparagine and consequently, its flavour is more intense with a nutty aftertaste. White asparagus is milder in taste with a slightly bitter finish and it has to be peeled before consumption. Its white colour depends on the fact that during its growth it is covered with soil to prevent the production of chlorophyll. When growing wild, asparagus has a more pungent flavour. Therefore, it is important to choose the right variety for the dish you intend to prepare.
How to pick out and prep your asparagus
In the UK, asparagus season runs from about mid-April until around the summer solstice. To pick out the freshest stems, find those that are the brightest greens, with purplish tips and stems that are firm instead of mushy. To prep the asparagus for your culinary creations, rinse any grit or dirt off the spears, and blot or roll them dry on a paper towel. The lowest inch or two of the stalks will usually be a tougher base that needs to be snapped off. Now you’re ready to use this low-calorie, high-vitamin vegetable.
Here we have a number of delicious asparagus food pairings, with tips on how to combine the flavour of this spring vegetable with other ingredients in the preparation of some amazing dishes.
Asparagus: classical pairings
- Asparagus and dairy produce. Asparagus is excellent served with any type of dairy product, such as cheese (particularly Grana Padano or Parmigiano), butter and any sauces containing dairy produce or cream.
- Asparagus and eggs. A great classic? Green asparagus, eggs and truffle. These ingredients are so ideally suited because they both have a grassy note, while truffles have hints of onion that are also to be found in asparagus and, to a lesser extent, in eggs. The real secret is that asparagus, eggs and truffle all share sulphurous notes.
- Asparagus and guanciale (pig cheek bacon), bacon or raw ham. The ideal way to proceed is to make these ingredients crisp by gently frying them. You can use raw or cooked ham to wrap little bunches of asparagus in. In this case, the pairing is achieved by contrasting savoury and sweet flavours. By adding egg, you have the recipe of traditional “asparagus carbonara”.
- Asparagus with prawns, fresh crab and scallops.
Asparagus: original pairings
- Asparagus and zabaione. One of the boldest pairings comes from the past. According to a custom that is widespread in the countryside of Veneto, asparagus can be accompanied with a “sabayon” of eggs whisked up with sugar and dry white wine. The flavour of boiled asparagus blends harmoniously with the sweet and fatty creaminess of this egg-based sauce.
- Asparagus and strawberries. In a salad dressed with balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil.
- Asparagus and dill. As the ingredients of a salad in which grassy notes prevail, based on dill, mustard, sesame and nutmeg.
- Asparagus with liquorice and tarragon. Because the slightly mentholated notes of liquorice and tarragon enhance the sweetness of asparagus.
- Asparagus and pine nuts, roasted almonds or peanuts. The flavour of asparagus regales an aftertaste reminiscent of dried fruit and nuts. Consequently, it is not surprising that it reveals a certain affinity with almonds, especially the roasted variety.
- Asparagus, chocolate and raspberry. A daring trio which works thanks to the presence of floral notes recalling the fragrance of roses, perceivable in both asparagus and raspberry.
Top chefs’ pairings
Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo seduces the palate with his Gnocchi asparagus and calamari. Daniel Boulud, steams his asparagus and pairs it with mint and lemon. Asparagus, black olive, goat’s curd, crispy seeds and nuts is a recipe signed by Tristin Farmer, head chef at the Mazein in London, which is a perfect example of a pairing between similar molecules. Gordon Ramsay loves this ingredient and teams it up with the flavour of anise in his Shaved asparagus and fennel salad or just as it is in the classical pairing ingredients of a Frittata asparagus, bacon and goat cheese. One of the cult dishes by Mauro Colagreco is Asparagus salad, yoghurt sauce and vanilla flavoured acacia honey, while Niko Romito serves Cuttlefish on asparagus.
Full-fledged recipes with asparagus
If none of these pairings strike your fancy, or you’re looking for a more substantial side or main, how about these tasty ideas?
This vegetarian twist on the Italian classic is made with béchamel sauce instead of bolognese and loaded with asparagus. A hearty dish for the autumn, perfect with a glass of Italian red by the fire on a chilly evening.
Roasted asparagus hummus
Or for a side that’s lighter but every bit as creamy and vegetarian as the lasagna, whip up some roasted asparagus hummus. A spring dish for when asparagus is right in season, serve on crusty bread or as a dip with crunchy crudités to accompany an early barbecue.
Crispy gnocchi and asparagus
For yet another Mediterranean mainstay, chomp down on some crispy gnocchi and asparagus. This daring dish showcases Italian ingredients and was devised by the talented young Milanese chef Alessandro Bergamo.