Broccoli may be my favorite vegetable but I get very excited when asparagus is in season. This vegetable that I never even tasted until my adulthood is the epitome of spring. Asparagus is extremely healthy. It is a superfood that helps cleanse kidneys, helps high blood-pressure, lowers cholesterol, keeps bones strong, and aids depression and fertility problems. It has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties as well. Asparagus is delicious grilled, sauteed, steamed, roasted or baked. Their fresh and mild flavor makes them work well with many different seasonings, marinades and sauces. Here are some flavor variations to try with asparagus this spring.
1. Selection, Storage and Prep
Asparagus come in thin and thick spears. They both taste delicious so the size is a matter of preference. Choose bright green spears that are all the same size and have tightly closed tips. Store them in the fridge with the bottoms wrapped in a damp paper towel. When you’re ready to cook them, hold the spear and bend the woody end gently to see where it naturally snaps. Then you can line up the rest of the spears to cut them at that same point. Some people like to also peel the stalks to strip away any tough parts.
2. Roasted Garlic-Lemon Asparagus
I love roasting vegetables especially asparagus. Roasting brings out all the flavor in vegetables by caramelizing their natural sugars. Cooking the asparagus with garlic makes them savory while the lemon brightens up the dish. To make Roasted Garlic-Lemon Asparagus: trim 1-lb. asparagus by picking up a spear and bending it gently. Where it breaks naturally is where you want to cut all the spears to get rid of the woody tip. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, toss in a few thinly sliced garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until lightly browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. The garlic should be slightly browned and crispy. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on right before serving.
3. Asparagus with Vegan Hollandaise Sauce
Asparagus with hollandaise sauce is a classic dish. Hollandaise sauce is one of the mother sauces. It is made by whisking clarified butter into warm egg yolks. Hollandaise sauce is rich, creamy and tangy and brings a lot of flavor to the mild asparagus. To make my Vegan Hollandaise Sauce: Melt 2 Tbs. vegan butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 2 Tbs. of flour until you have a roux. Let the flour cook for a minute or two. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of room temperature non-dairy milk. I prefer full-fat coconut milk for the richest, creamiest results. Whisk in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a pinch of ground turmeric and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until it thickens. Serve warm over grilled, roasted or steamed asparagus. For another hollandaise sauce recipe, see the one used in this Eggs Benny and Flo.
4. Lemon and Tahini Asparagus
If you like the Middle Eastern flavors of lemon, sesame and tahini, then you will love this recipe for Super Simple Sesame-Drenched Asparagus. It uses just 6 ingredients and takes only 15 minutes to prepare. The asparagus is roasted and then drizzled with tahini, lemon and toasted sesame seeds. Serve it hot or cold. You can even make your own Homemade Tahini.
5. Asparagus with Fennel and Orange
The combination of fennel and orange is delicious. I use this combo in one of my favorite salads. It also makes an amazing dressing for asparagus. To make the Orange Fennel Dressing: combine the zest and juice of an orange, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard, ½ tsp. ground fennel, 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar and 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and if you want it sweeter, add some agave nectar. To prep the fennel, cut across the bulb to slice the fennel. You can also cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Slice the core away. Cut the halves into slices of your desired thickness. Toss the trimmed asparagus and fennel slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp-tender. Transfer to a platter and toss the asparagus and fennel with the dressing. Add orange segments and fennel fronds for garnish.
6. Soy Maple-Glazed Asparagus with Lemon and Thyme
Whenever I make Brussels sprouts, I roast them and then toss them in a delicious sauce with maple syrup, tamari, lemon and thyme. This same dressing can be used as a marinade to cook the asparagus in. To make Soy Maple-Glazed Asparagus with Lemon and Thyme: in a bowl, combine the zest and juice of one lemon, 1 Tbs. maple syrup, 2 Tbs. tamari, 2 Tbs. of oil, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp. thyme and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the asparagus in the marinade to coat it. Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Top the asparagus with any remaining marinade before serving. For similar recipes, try this Maple-Mustard Glaze and this Sherry-Maple Vinaigrette, swapping the Brussels sprouts for asparagus.
7. Asparagus with Tarragon or Dill Butter
Vegetables always taste good with melted butter sliding all over them. Make it extra-special by serving asparagus with Homemade Compound Tarragon or Dill Butter. Just mash a stick of vegan butter with a spatula in a bowl until creamy. Mix in 1 Tbs. fresh chopped tarragon or dill, ¼ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. kosher salt and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Scrape the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a log. Wrap it tightly and put it in the freezer overnight. The next day, take it out of the freezer and slice it into rounds. Let it come to room temperature. Cook the asparagus however you like and when they are done, transfer them to a platter and put a few rounds of the tarragon butter to melt over the vegetables. For another herb-filled recipe, try this Lemon Tarragon Asparagus.
8. Stir-Fried Asparagus with Soy and Ginger
Stir-frying is a quick way to cook vegetables with a ton of flavor. Combine fresh grated ginger with soy sauce and minced garlic and toss it over stir-fried asparagus. Add some heat with red chile flakes or Sriracha hot sauce and top with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Or instead of Asian flavors, use Indian spices as in this Indian Carrot and Asparagus Stir-Fry or go simple with fresh basil as in this Asparagus and Tomato Medley.
Asparagus is such an elegant vegetable and there are so many ways to make it delicious. For even more amazing recipe ideas, check out these 10 Simple and Awesome Saute Sauces.
Lead Image Photo: 10 Simple and Awesome Saute Sauces