Let’s pretend it’s still spring…

[This is reposted from back in the spring.]

Something really amazing happened a few days ago. It was magical and beautiful and even kind of sexy.

It was asparagus.

ImageOhhhh YEAH.

See, I’ve been fantasizing about asparagus for months, ever since I finished up Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and was forever ruined on supermarket asparagus. So now spring equals asparagus in my head. But, the real mood killer on my budding affair with this flower—other than my unfunny botany jokes, which could kill any mood—is that the farmer’s market here hasn’t had any asparagus at all. Nada. Not a stalk in the whole damn shebang.

I don’t know if it’s that Rhode Island is still too cold, or that the farmers don’t focus on asparagus, but it is not okay.

Luckily, I have another love in my life, Jarrett, and I can usually wheedle him into doing my bidding. He was in Ann Arbor, so off he went with his farmer neighbor Brian (who is my food idol for a trillion reasons) to stalk some wild asparagus. He was basically a modern-day Euell Gibbons.

Anyway, Jarrett and Brian hustled off into the fields and clipped off dozens and dozens of bunches of asparagus, which apparently grows right from the ground, wild and maintenance-free, just like grass. Jarrett said it was a bit like morel hunting in that you have to train your eyes to differentiate the asparagus stalks from the grass blades, and that he’d spent his whole life walking his farm and had never noticed all the asparagus growing right under his nose.

He wrapped them up and drove them all the way from Michigan to Rhode Island for me. I was not more excited to see the asparagus than to see him, but it was really, really (REALLY!) close. So what did I do with 30 stalks of fresh, wild asparagus that traveled 2 days in a Jeep to get to me? Nothing but a sauté.

Sautéing the Wild Asparagus

Wild asparagus is so amazingly tender, fresh and snappy that you can eat it raw. But a quick sauté and a creamy dressing makes it even yummier. If asparagus isn’t in season, look for stalks at the supermarket that aren’t dried out and cracked at the bottom, since this usually means they’ve been sitting there too long.

2 side dish servings
10 stalks of asparagus, washed and dried
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ pepper

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Up the heat to medium-high and add the asparagus, then season with the salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes or until there is a slight char in spots but the spear is still rigid. Serve hot.

Creamy Chickpea Dressing

I love this dressing because it gives you all the satisfaction of a sinfully creamy dressing like ranch, but it’s healthy and even vegan. You could make a similar dressing with store-bought hummus by just adding olive oil until it thins out to a liquid.

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or the same amount of home-cooked chickpeas)
1 garlic clove
2 lemons, juiced and zested
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
olive oil

Put all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse quickly. With the food processor running, start to stream in more olive oil until the dressing is like a paste. If you stopped here, you’d have some pretty darn good hummus. But keep adding olive oil, until the dressing is smooth and liquid-y.

Drizzle over the asparagus, or for little hands, chop up the asparagus into fry-sized pieces and let kids dip them into the dressing.

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