Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pickled Aparagus Ribbons

Asparagus is a weird vegetable.

For lots of reasons.

I absolutely love asparagus and look forward to buying it when it's growing locally. But one of the things that irks me about asparagus is the way the tips sometimes curl.

You see, asparagus doesn't accept the fact the it's been cut and it's on its way to the dinner table. Oh no. Even when it's safely in your refrigerator, it tries to grow upwards.

If the asparagus is stored laying on its side, "upwards" means that the tips start turning sideways in relation to the stalk. So you end up with nice straight asparagus stalks with bent ends. It doesn't harm the asparagus in any way, but it doesn't look as pretty.

The way to thwart those curling tips is to stand the asparagus upright, and that's usually what I do - leaving it in the plastic bag and standing it upright in the refrigerator. Or, more likely, leaning against whatever else is on the shelf.

The other problem with storing asparagus for more than a day or two is that the tips can get soft and mushy from any condensation in the bag. That's not nice.

The best thing to do is buy the asparagus and cook it the same day - or maybe the next - but when asparagus is on sale, I can't stop myself from buying one bunch for now, another bunch for later, and maybe one extra, just in case. And then I have asparagus propped upright in the refrigerator.

When I got a whole set of "keepers" from Good Cook, I was particularly curious about the asparagus keeper. Would it actually make a difference? So I ran right out and got some asparagus. Unfortunately, the store was nearly sold out, and what I bought wasn't the best asparagus I'd ever seen. There were even a few bent ends.

Oh well. 

I'm happy to report that the asparagus fared really well in the keeper. While there was some condensation inside the keeper, it didn't drip onto the asparagus - there are holes on top, and that must have let enough moisture escape. So, definitely better than the usual plastic bag.

Since I'm all giddy about asparagus, I thought I'd do an asparagus recipe. Something really different. I usually steam or roast asparagus. But did you know you can eat it raw?

Yup, it's perfectly fine raw.

I have some old cookbooks where raw shaved asparagus was a common thing, but it seems that people have abandoned the idea of eating it raw. Or forgotten about it. Lately, I've seen it crop up in a few places, but I've also seen people commenting that "you can't eat asparagus raw!!!"

Yes, you can.

And, just for something different, I did a quick pickle on thin strips of asparagus. I used some of it to garnish a salad, and we ate some at dinner as ... well ... a pickle. I have some left, and I'm thinking about adding it to a sandwich.

I used a mandoline to make thin, even strips from the asparagus. It makes the most sense to use thicker stalks if you're going to do this. Thinner stalks could be cut horizontally with a knife, but I really like the way the fat slices look.

Quick-Pickled Asparagus

Fat asparagus spears
1 part mild vinegar (like rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar)
3 parts water
Salt, to taste

Slice the asparagus spears on a mandolin to get thin, even strips. I found it was easiest to start cutting at the cut end of the stalk and slice towards the tip. Be extremely careful - even with thick stalks, you're not very far from your fingers.

Put the asparagus into a flat bowl or into a plastic bag.

Sprinkle the asparagus with salt.

Mix the vinegar and water. The amount you'll need depends on how much asparagus you have. You don't need to drown it, you need just enough to moisten all of it, and you can turn it a few times to make sure it all gets its time in the liquid.

If you use a plastic bag, remove as much air as possible from the bag, then seal. This works better than a bowl, since the liquid will have better contact with the food, and you'll need less liquid and no need to stir.

Pour the liquid over the asparagus and flip the asparagus around a few times to make sure the liquid is coating all of it. Set aside. It will pick up a nice tangy flavor after as little as 10 minutes, or you can let it sit for an hour or more.

Pour off the liquid and serve as desired. An extra sprinkle of flake salt and a drizzle of olive oil would be a nice addition.

I received the "keepers" from Good Cook as part of a blogger program.