I love asparagus and look forward to seeing the first stalks in the late spring, so I find it somewhat ironic that I had my first taste of asparagus this season while I was in Hawaii earlier this week. It was the appetizer to a fabulous three-course dinner at Ka’uiki in the Hana-Maui Hotel and Spa, where the menu is mostly local and organic.
The asparagus was grilled and served with pohole fern, yellow tomatoes, crispy pipikaula, and a pickled ginger vinaigrette. Pohole fern is like a fiddlehead but much more delicate and ‘fluffy.’ Pipikaula is a dried beef made with ginger and soy sauce. The result was a subtle explosion of tastes that really worked well together. You can be sure that I’m going to try this one at home! I’ll let you know how it works out.
In the meantime, if you want to enjoy asparagus au naturel (well, almost), here’s how I prepare it. Steamed is best. I actually don’t have an asparagus steamer, instead I use a method borrowed from Colin Spencer. I bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan, toss in a bunch of new potatoes and then wedge the asparagus in the middle so they stand up. I then cover the whole pot with tin-foil and cook for about 5 minutes. Usually the asparagus is done by then, but the potatoes may need a few minutes more. You can also do asparagus on the grill. Brush the stalks with olive oil and grill for about 5 minutes, turning them a couple of times during the cooking process.
I like to serve asparagus with a bit of butter, a very light dash of coarse salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. If I’m feeling really decadent, then I’ll shave some fresh Parmesan on top. The potatoes that shared the pot with the asparagus are very tasty done up as a warm potato salad. Simply toss the hot, drained potatoes in a basic vinaigrette flavoured with fresh herbs and dijon mustard.
Voilà! Add a side of grilled local meat, sustainable fish, grilled marinated tofu or a chickpea salad, and you have an instant summer meal! Enjoy.