Asparagus in Winter
I know it's not technically asparagus season but I've been testing recipes for a spring Natural Health story. And while the asparagus I'm using may have been flown in from South America, the spears are still tasty and I figured out some fun ways to make these woody shoots the main attraction rather than delegating them to a side dish.
I made an asparagus galette, asparagus and watercress soup, an asparagus tofu stir-fry and my favorite, asparagus carbonara. And yes, they all made my pee smell. Sorry for the potty digression but the tricky thing about asparagus is that they make everyone's urine smell but not everyone can smell the smell. In fact, there is a specific gene that allows one to smell that earthy green pungent perfume -- an emanation I find both fetid and attractive at the same time.
Interestingly, I interviewed chef Akasha Richmond for the story and when I asked her about the pee factor, she didn't know what I was talking about. Subsequently, we determined she doesn't have the gene because she loves asparagus, eats them all the time, and has never once noticed the odor. One of her favorite summer asparagus preparations -- grilled and then dressed with an orange citrus vinegrette -- simple and oh so elegant.
For those who want a cozy winter asparagus dish, here's the one I developed for a vegetarian carbonara. You won't miss the pancetta, I promise.
1 pound dried spaghetti
½ pound asparagus, trimmed and chopped diagonally into 1.5 inch slices
1 garlic clove minced
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
4 slices tempeh bacon (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs
2 cups water mixed with about 6 tablespoons white vinegar
1. Prepare pasta according to package directions
2. If using tempeh, prepare according to directions, crumble and set aside.
3. Add olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté garlic and asparagus about three minutes until asparagus is bright green and tender. Season with salt and grated nutmeg to taste.
4. Bring egg-poaching liquid to boil and then lower heat so water stays just below boiling.
5. Add drained pasta to sauté pan with garlic and asparagus over medium heat. Toss until pasta is coated, turn off heat and toss in about 2/3 cup of cheese and toss again
6. Poach eggs one at a time, carefully cracking the egg into a small bowl and then gently slide it into poaching liquid. Cook until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Remove with slotted spoon.
7. Plate pasta into individual bowls; place an egg on top with fresh ground black pepper and garnish with cheese and tempeh.
8. Serve immediately, mixing up the pasta to spread the egg and yolk throughout the dish.