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Asparagus Again

May 14, 2012 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Asparagus Again

It's asparagus again because it's season is so short and you wont’ be nearly as interested in asparagus once tomatoes come in. Plus local asparagus will be gone by then. So I believe in jumping on a food when it’s at its best until you’re fully sated.

I love to grill and roast asparagus, but I think I like griddling best. You get this nice, seared flavor in about 10 minutes max and the softened spears are utterly succulent.  Those that are still a bit firm are somehow perfect, too, like eating warm, nearly raw stalks.  Plus you don’t have to have a grill, and you don’t have to heat your oven on a too warm day.  And if any more reasons are needed, griddled asparagus is good with all kinds of things —lemon and sea salt, tarragon mayonnaise, a yogurt based sauce, fried eggs and a peanut sauce as well, as shown here.

I prefer using thick asparagus just because its more “meaty”—more to bite into. Peeling doesn’t take but a few minutes, then you’ll get these nice blistered surfaces on the stalks as well as the tips. As for a griddle pan, it’s one of those cast-iron pans with ridges. It’s great for grilling meats and vegetables of all kinds, a worthy investment if you like the taste of “grilled” but don’t have one, or don’t want to grill in the snow. I’m not aiming for cross hatches here, just a little color and that blistering that promises such good flavor.
The peanut sauce is thin in texture but big on flavor.  It’s particularly good with asparagus, but also with tempeh, over brown rice and Asian noodles.

Griddled Asparagus with Peanut Sauce               

Ingredients

1 ½ pounds asparagus, washed and trimmed, peeled if thick
Peanut oil or olive oil to coat lightly
Sea salt


The Sauce
½ cup peanut butter (not sweetened!)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, ground red chile, or 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Sea salt to taste


for garnish: cilantro sprigs and sesame seeds

Preparation

If using thick asparagus, peel the lower parts of the stalks. Toss them with just enough of the oil to coat lightly and season with a few pinches of salt.

Heat a cast-iron pan with ridges.  When it’s hot, add the asparagus. Let it sit for several minutes, then turn it. You don’t have to do each one individually as you would on a grill – just pick up a mass of stalks and redistribute them. I keep the heat on medium-high for this, and continue letting the asparagus sit then turn until colored here and there and tender when pierced with a knife. In all this can take from 5 to 10 minutes.

While the asparagus is cooking make the peanut sauce. Put the peanut butter in the food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth, adding a little water if needed to thin the sauce to the desired consistency.  Taste for salt and add soy sauce if needed.

Settle the griddled asparagus on a platter, add a spoonful of sauce, and garnish with some cilantro sprigs and black sesame seeds.

Serves 3 or 4

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