before it's over

 


Forget sausages and beer, Germans love asparagus:  white asparagus, also known as edible ivory.

And I am using the word love on purpose - not like, or adore but love. In the English language we really throw this word around. For instance, I love balconies. I love zucchini blossoms and road-trips. I love old dining room tables made from wood. I love hand-me-downs. In German you are less likely to hear such sentences. Germans save the word love. They don't throw it around like we do in English and when they use it it isn't usually possible to interchange it with the word like. That said, I am pretty sure I can safely say that Germans love white asparagus. Both Deutsche Welle and the Spiegel have written about the love affair between this country and edible ivory.

In fact, the German word for asparagus - Spargel - refers only to white asparagus. If you want green asparagus you must specifically say Gruenspargel or gruener Spargel and you must hunt for it underneath piles and piles of its fairer sibling. What makes the two different? Dirt. White asparagus is grown completely underground which means that it costs more than green asparagus as it is much more labour intensive. 

I have never seen one seasonal ingredient take over restaurants, markets and people's plates to the extent that white asparagus does each spring and early summer in Germany. It truly must be love. 

Luckily, I too am crazy about asparagus. However, it took me a long time to be charmed by white asparagus. Growing up with the green variety, I became accustomed to thinner spears that are much more versatile. I have eaten green asparagus in a plethora of forms - from raw shaved salads with hazelnuts to with Tabasco butter and quinoa and from a traditional quiche with salmon to battered and fried as tempura. Green asparagus is happy to be transformed from year to year and from dish to dish. I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. White asparagus, on the other hand, is a little more predictable in its preparation. Most of the time it is boiled and then served with hollandaise sauce. On the same plate you might also find new potatoes with parsley, Schnitzel, or ham (often dry-cured). Other than with hollandaise, you might also find white asparagus in a rich and creamy gratin. Creaminess is the common thread here.


So most of my experiences with white asparagus have involved hollandaise sauce and lots of it. My New Roots recently had a recipe for roasted white asparagus with caper berries with mustard dill dressing. While I read the recipe, and then made it a few days later, it was if I was meeting white asparagus for the first time all over. It was just the inspiration I needed to think differently and more creatively about white asparagus. Don't get me wrong:  I do enjoy asparagus with hollandaise just as much as any of my German neighbours; however, I also like to mix things up now and again. Each spring you will find heaps of green asparagus roasting in my oven so it just made sense to try roasting white asparagus instead of boiling it like business as usual. The idea of a dressing or a topping for the asparagus just seemed brilliant. And just like that, with only one recipe, my head was busy brainstorming friends for white asparagus. I decided to try sun-dried tomato pesto as a topping and boy did the white asparagus and the pesto ever get along!


Asparagus season ends this week so there is not much time left to make this recipe - Roasted White Asparagus with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto. If you don't make in time, save it for next year or just make the sun-dried tomato pesto and serve it with some pasta instead. With or without the asparagus, sun-dried tomato pesto is something special. To be honest, it is my go to dish for when I barely have enough energy to place a cutting board on the counter. I eat it with pasta more often than I should probably admit. It takes just a few minutes to prepare - less time in fact than the water needs to boil - and it is consistently satisfying. If you make it for pasta, add some of the hot pasta water to thin it out and then serve it with some grated parmesan or pecorino romano. That said, I still recommend a trip to the market for white asparagus before the season is over.




Roasted White Asparagus with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto


* * * *

Roasted White Asparagus 

adapted from My New Roots

ingredients

4-5 spears of white asparagus per person
olive oil, to drizzle
coarse sea salt
a handful of caper berries, optional

Preheat oven to 400F / 200C / gas mark 6.

Snap off the end of each asparagus spear. Peel from top to bottom. Make sure to peel more off of the bottom to ensure you remove any woody or tough parts. If using, cut the caper berries in half. Place the asparagus (and caper berries) on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Roast until slightly golden and the bottoms and tips are tender (but not mushy), about 10-20 minutes depending on the heat of your oven and the thickness of the asparagus. 

While the asparagus is roasting, prepare the sun-dried tomato pesto.

Once the asparagus is ready, remove from the oven, transfer to a serving tray or plates, drizzle with the sun-dried tomato pesto and serve immediately. 

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

serves 2-4


ingredients

1/2 cup packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 medium cloves garlic
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
a large pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
a large pinch (or two) of red chili flakes
1/3 cup + 2tsp extra virgin olive oil

If using a food processor, pulse together the sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, salt & red chili flakes. Add the olive oil and pulse until the mixture comes together. Add the walnuts and pulse a few more times.

If you wish to make the pesto by hand begin by finely chopping the sun-dried tomatoes (if you have a ceramic knife use it). In a mortar & pestle, combine the thyme, salt, garlic and red chili flakes. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil and combine until the mixture comes together. Add the walnuts at the end. Check the seasoning to taste. 

The pesto can be made ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week.


Guten!

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