Few vegetables generate as much enthusiasm as asparagus. On a trip to Europe in the spring of 1991, we discovered the ultimate treat for asparagus aficionados. Several restaurants in Europe celebrate the arrival of the vegetable and offer it as a main course accompanied by sauces of your choice and sometimes with thin slices of ham.
Wild asparagus, although smaller than cultivated asparagus, grows mostly around the Mediterranean. Cultivated asparagus are green or white. Green asparagus is popular in North America, Italy and England while white is popular in France, Belgium and Germany. To obtain white asparagus, farmers frequently cover the plants with soil to prevent them from turning green in sunlight.
Choose asparagus with tightly closed tips and smooth stems without wilting. To remove the tough part, place the asparagus in one hand, hold it in place with your thumb, and apply downward pressure with the other hand. It will break to the point of tenderness. Large asparagus can be peeled by starting 2 inches from the bottom of the head and ending at the base of the asparagus.
Asparagus can be steamed, baked in oil or uncovered in a large pot of boiling water. It’s the latter that I prefer. For easier serving and presentation of the asparagus, tie each serving up and down before adding to the pot of boiling water. Asparagus is delicious served with hollandaise sauce, in vinaigrette, in a quiche, an omelet, a pizza and a soup.