Tuesday, June 18, 2024

With asparagus season now peaking, it’s currently affordable and delicious

Asparagus seems to be everywhere right now; there’s another month of the growing season in Mexico, and the market is flooded with beautiful young asparagus at more-than-reasonable prices. Here in Mazatlán, I paid 18 pesos for a bunch of a dozen lovely, bright-green young stalks. (I don’t remember the weight.)

Look for stalks that are fresh and not dried out; if your grocery store displays them standing upright in a little water, that’s the best. After washing and disinfecting, snap the stalks wherever they naturally break, discard the bottom part and then proceed with your recipe.

Thinking I’d make a chilled asparagus salad, I roasted the asparagus in the toaster oven with a drizzle of good olive oil and a little salt and pepper. After about eight minutes, I tested a stalk — and almost ate them all!

Roasting or grilling asparagus gets rid of the characteristic bitterness and is as easy (or easier) than steaming them. I like to use asparagus in quiche and frittata, omelets, salads and, of course, as a side dish with just about anything. It’s also great in stir-fries and pairs particularly well with mushrooms.

Asparagus is a big money-making export crop for Mexico because of its consistent high quality and because it’s harvested when not much is available from elsewhere. Most of it is grown in the Sonora municipality of Caborca, on the uppermost eastern side of the Sea of Cortés near the Arizona border.

Roasting asparagus is a quick and easy way to get your veggies.
Roasting asparagus is a quick and easy way to get your veggies.

The season is from December to April, so we’re right at the peak. Take advantage of this abundance by freezing several (or many!) bunches now — directions below.

How to freeze asparagus:

Wash stalks and snap off root ends.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and blanch asparagus for 2-4 minutes, depending on thickness of stalks, until tender-crisp.

Immediately drain asparagus and plunge in an ice water bath for 2-3 minutes to stop cooking. Drain.

Flash-freeze stalks by spreading them in a single layer on cookie sheets and freezing for 1-2 hours. (Using parchment or wax paper will make them easier to remove.) Transfer to freezer bags or containers.

Simple Roasted Asparagus

Serve this as a side dish or use as the base for your other asparagus recipes.

  • 1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Optional: 1½ Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. lemon/lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet or pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and Parmesan or garlic, if using. Bake about 8-10 minutes till tender-crisp.

If desired, drizzle with fresh lemon or lime juice just before serving.

A creamy dipping sauce takes this battered treat to a whole new level.
A creamy dipping sauce takes this battered treat to a whole new level.

“Country Fair” Deep-Fried Asparagus

Perfect with a cold beer for Happy Hour or lunch!

  • Vegetable or peanut oil (as needed)
  • 1/3 cup beer (cold and flat)
  • 1 egg white
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ lbs. asparagus (cleaned and trimmed)

Heat 1 inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Whisk together beer, egg white, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a flat dish or pan big enough for asparagus spears to fit in.

Dip spears in batter one at a time; fry for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt, and serve with mayo or a creamy dipping sauce.

Spaghetti al Limone with Asparagus

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, sliced diagonally
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Four 3-inch-long strips lemon zest
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or whole
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Cook pasta al dente. Drain, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add garlic, zest, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Add pasta and basil to pot with asparagus mixture and return to medium heat. Squeeze juice from both lemons into pot, add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.

Cook, mixing well; add more pasta liquid if needed, until sauce is creamy and emulsified, about 1 minute. Season with salt.

Divide pasta among bowls, place a lemon strip in each. Top with more Parmesan.

The light crisp of asparagus adds a perfect contrast to spaghetti.
The light crisp of asparagus adds a perfect contrast to spaghetti.

Chilled Asparagus with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette

  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed


  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. red chile flakes
  • ¼ tsp. sesame oil

Roast or steam asparagus till tender-crisp; immerse in ice water to stop cooking. Pat dry.

Arrange on platter and chill in refrigerator. Just before serving, mix together dressing ingredients and pour over asparagus.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. A retired journalist, she has lived in Mexico since 2006.

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