The following originally appeared on 5/13/09 at Exit 51.
Advertising executives may want you to believe that eating fresh means patronizing a certain fast food chain. To me, it’s something entirely different. My definition of eating fresh is cutting down, as much as possible, the journey fruits and vegetables take from the grower to my plate. Since I’ve come to peace with the fact that I will never be the house in the neighborhood that has a killer vegetable garden, I am eager to find an alternative. See those beautiful spears of asparagus? That was my first attempt.
I should preface all this by saying that there was a distinct lack of fresh vegetables in my house as a child. We ate vegetables, but they came out of either a can or a bag and were destined to be boiled down into unappetizing mush on the stove. Tomatoes were the exception. There was always a plate of fresh (from the grocery store) tomatoes in the house. My grandmother would work wonders with even the toughest, driest tomatoes turning them into blt’s or frying them up in her cast iron skillet until the crust was perfectly browned and crisp. Those were some of the best summer breakfasts.
So I grew up thinking that asparagus was mushy and tinny and came with an overabundance of sodium. It has only been as an adult that I’ve discovered the true nature of the spears. And thanks to the folks at the farm stand, I now know what asparagus aspires to be. Having just been picked the day before I bought them, these spears still had life. They were firm and strong, breaking with a clear snap. The tips, usually the first place to show signs of having been sitting around for a while, were tight and unbruised. And the color? It just screamed fresh.
Best of all was the taste. The folks at the farm stand, who did the growing, assured me that I would taste a difference. The only word I can come up with to describe what they tasted like is ‘green’. It was like I was tasting Spring. Bright and clean.
Now that’s eating fresh.
Pan Roasted Asparagus
This is our favorite way to fix asparagus (and string beans). If you don’t have an indoor grill pan, use a large nonstick skillet. This would also work well on a grill. Just be sure to lay the spears perpendicular to the grill grates, skewer them together to make an asparagus raft, or use a grill basket.
- Fresh asparagus, rinsed and stems trimmed
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Lemon zest
Lightly oil a nonstick grill pan, using either a silicon basting brush or paper towel to get a thin coat of oil. Preheat pan over medium high flame. Add asparagus and a big pinch of kosher salt. Turn asparagus with tongs as they cook. The color will turn bright green and the spears will begin to soften. Dress with freshly grated lemon zest.