Wednesday, June 17, 2009

YAY for Spring Veg: Balsamic Grilled Asparagus

Wedding cake is great fun, but my hips can't take any more sweets at this point. So, it's back to the veggie patch with us! And this week, it's ALL ABOUT the spring veg.

If you live on the West Coast you can laugh at us Midwesterners for being a bit late-on-the-draw with our asparagus recipes. But, the fact is, we're in the midst of Wisconsin asparagus season right now. In mid-June. And we couldn't be happier.

We've been loading up on fresh, local asparagus from JenEhr Family Farm at the farmer's market on Saturdays. And we'll keep on eating it until it's no longer available... by which point we'll be utterly sickened by the thought of eating any more. AH! The joys of seasonal produce!

Now, if you're a food geek (as I am), you might be interested in knowing that asparagus has a long, mysterious history. No one really knows its origins. However, we do know that it's been around for a VERY long time. The word asparagus originates from the Greek, asparagos – and the Greeks were known for their cultivation of the plant. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder speaks of their belief that if rams’ horns were pounded and buried, asparagus would grow in that place. Another famous Roman, Cato, wrote about his experiences cultivating asparagus from seed at the vernal equinox. The seeds should be sown, he wrote, in moist, dense soil and fertilized with sheep’s dung. Maybe a bit TMI -- but fascinating stuff, nonetheless.

That said, I won't hold you down for too long with the history of things. In fact, today I've got an easy-peasy grilled asparagus recipe that will have your tastebuds dancing. All you need (in addition to a pound or so of asparagus) are three ingredients that I'll bet you have lying around in your pantry -- a bit of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and a bit of Dijon mustard.
Throw all three ingredients into a bowl. Almost any proportion works in this case, but I like equal parts vinegar/oil with a dollop of mustard.
Add a pinch of salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper... and then whisk them thoroughly. It's not the prettiest vinaigrette in the universe, but I promise you'll find it far more than satisfactory.
Toss it with your cleaned asparagus. You can let the veg marinate for a while, or you can throw them directly on the grill. Heck, you can even eat them just as they are, if you're so inclined (really fresh asparagus is outstanding raw).
Grill the spears over direct heat for 5-10 minutes -- or until they are just tender.
One of the great things about asparagus is the speed at which it can be cooked. It's the perfect vegetable to prep as a quick side dish. Which explains the legendary phrase often attributed to Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus (known to be quite the fan of asparagus): Velocius quam asparagi coquantur (Quicker than you can cook asparagus).

Yay for ancient spring foods!

This post has been submitted as part of Real Food Wednesdays. Great stuff over there; check it out!

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  1. Nice. Usually I just grill asparagus with salt pepper and olive oil; but I'll have to give the additions of balsamic and dijon a shot!

  2. I totally agree -- yay for spring vegetables. And I know what you mean watching the harvest go from the west coast east as the weeks go by. Hey, we had snow in our yard here in Colorado not all that long ago!

    Are you caked out? I'm still blown away that you made that beautiful cake. Amazing! And what a nice transition cake to asparagus!


    Happy Spring (almost summer)!

  3. Very yum! Asparagus are still in season here in Virginia, and I love how balsamic pairs with them. I'll have to make asparagus with this vinaigrette after going to the market again. I usually toss them with olive oil, garlic, and lemon and roast. This will make a nice change of pace!

  4. Everyone has a favorite grilled asparagus recipe and yours looks delicious. I'm partial to balsamic vinegar on mine, too.

  5. Such a perfect BBQ side dish! Thanks for sharing!

  6. We are still getting asparagus here on the West Coast. Sorry -- not only do we get it earlier but we get it for a longer period of time. I'm not bragging -- it's just how it is here.

    We also pay a LOT more for raw milk. Minimum of $11/gallon and up to $20/gallon. So. There's that.

  7. Love the history of asparagus! Thanks for sharing that and a great recipe.

    And don't feel bad about your weather. We've been in the 50's for most of June. On Cape Cod! Today was 68 degrees and it felt like a gift.

    Your wedding cake is gorgeous! I wish I had the talent and patience for such an undertaking...

  8. Grilled asparagus are my favourite way to have them: quick, slightly charred and so delish!

  9. I love a little balsamic on my aspargus. I'm thinking tonight. I have a bunch of asparagus that I need to figure out what to do with.

    I'm with you on the ini-season thing. I think my husband is really tired of asparagus, but it's available so much at the farmer's markets that it's just cheap and easy.

  10. MMMMMMM...Lo: this dish looks fab! Yum Yum yum!

  11. I haven't seen any asparagus in Boston yet...well, not at the Farmer's market. But I did find it at Whole Foods...probably came from CA. :-)

  12. So simple and yet such a great way to enjoy the Spring asparagus!

  13. Try coating with mayo and some smoked paprika. My new favorite way to grill asparagus.


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