ALL ABOUT ASPARAGUS

We’ve all got our favorite ways to use asparagus — steamed,  sautéed, blanched, sliced, in soups, in risottos, chilled in salads, with aioli, with lemon zest, in an omelet, tossed in pasta, dipped in tempura batter and fried…

…but my hands-down favorite is:  Flash-roasted!

If you didn’t already love asparagus because it’s delicious, get ready to love it even more for what it can do for you!  Asparagus is low in calories… about 20 calories for a 3-ounce serving. Despite its low cal reputation, asparagus packs a huge punch in the nutrient-density department:  it’s a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, potassium and chromium.  Not to mention it’s a great source for dietary fiber!

At the market, choose your asparagus carefully.  Asparagus is usually sold in one-pound bunches.  Make sure you select the stalks that are straight, smooth and bright green with tight, compact bud tips (mushy tips mean trouble – they’ve been sitting around too long).  Remember, the fresher the asparagus, the more nutrients it still has to offer.  Also, avoid the really thick stalks.  You might think you’re getting more value for your money by buying a bigger size, but in this case, the smaller, the better.  We prefer stems that are pencil thin to dime-sized in diameter.  Thicker stems can be tough, woody and bitter.

Two Asparagus Recipes

Blanched and Sauteed Asparagus w Lemon Zest

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and blanched
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

Directions:

In a medium-sized saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium flame and add the blanched asparagus.  Saute until the asparagus is heated through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn off the heat and toss in the lemon zest and vinegar.  Serve immediately or chilled.

Flash-Roasted Asparagus

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • generous pinch freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment:

  • Baking sheet lined with aluminum foil
  • Oven mitts

Directions:

Preheat the oven and a foil-lined baking sheet to 500℉ for about 30 minutes.  It’s best if the oven is ROCKET HOT before you begin preparing the asparagus.

Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil salt and pepper.

When the oven is sufficiently hot enough to sizzle even the smallest drop of water on the baking sheet, quickly toss the seasoned asparagus onto the baking sheet and close the oven door.  ROAST FOR 3 minutes (or until the smoke starts to set off your smoke detector.)

With the oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven and roll the asparagus around.  Return to the oven and roast for another 2-4 minuts, or until the asparagus is tender.

Serve immediately.

This flash-roasting technique is great for when you’re pressed for time but still want something beautifully-cooked and delicious to go with dinner.  And this method is also great to use on green beans, baby Brussels Sprouts, radishes, zucchini and eggplants!

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A Crown for Queen Mom

It’s Springtime and here at DearMartini, that can only mean ONE THING:  Lamb is on the menu!!!!  WoooHooooo!  One of our favorite lamb dishes is a crown roast – it’s delicious and dramatic and oh, so satisfying to create and serve to guests.  When served with some freshly shelled English peas or sautéed asparagus, it’s a dish that’s fit for a Queen (or King)!

It’s a great idea for a Mother’s Day dinner — gather the family around and serve up this impressive main course that you learned to prepare with your helpful friends at DearMartini!

We’re going to challenge you this time:  while we think this frenching technique is pretty basic, it might be more appropriate for the intermediate home cook.  If you’re up for the challenge, bring home the racks and french them yourself.  If you’re not yet up for that, just ask your butcher to prepare the racks for you – you can still assemble the crown yourself.  Either way, it’s an impressive and stunning centerpiece for any springtime celebration!

Crown Roast of Lamb (serves 6-8 people)

2 racks of lamb, frenched

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Fresh herbs, for garnish

Special Equipment:

Cotton kitchen twine

Roasting pan

Instant-read thermometer

Paper frills

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove the racks of lamb from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Rub the racks on both sides with the garlic, salt, pepper and oil.  Form the crown by  standing the racks up, ribs facing out, and arrange them in a circle.  Tie cotton kitchen twine around the base to secure the crown.  Tie another length of twine near the top, just where the meat begins.  Transfer the crown to a roasting rack.

Roast the crown in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to roast for 15 more minutes.  Check the internal temperature of the meat by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, avoiding any bone.  If the internal temperature is between 120 – 123°F, remove the roast and tent it with foil.  Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish the roast on a platter with fresh herbs and paper frills.  You can also present the roast with stuffing in the center of the crown (very traditional).  To serve, spoon out the stuffing into another serving dish, remove the twine and slice individual lamb chops by slicing in between each rib.

Serve with roasted new potatoes and fresh springtime veggies like asparagus or fresh peas.