...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Food journal number 36: an adventure with asparagus

Between late April and early June is asparagus season. Or more correctly, it is spargel season, as the Germans like to call the vegetable. Germany is the biggest grower and exporter of the plant in Europe and by spargel, according to Wikipedia, the Germans refer more often than not to the white, not the green kind, of asparagus. By growing normal asparagus under a cover of soil, white asparagus (vit sparris in Swedish) results from a denial of photosynthesis. They are sweeter and less bitter than the green type that grows over the soil, and as I said, they are usually harvested in spring.

One can therefore expect their prices to go down at this time of the year. Since we're constantly on the lookout for new food ideas, we had a compulsion to buy a cheap bundle despite not even knowing how to prepare the thing. My previous experiences with asparagus were mostly in Campbell's can form, and Marcus never tried preparing them himself either.

This was our first ever try!

Thankfully, there are cookbooks. One in particular, Stora Kokboken, had been the reason for a lot of food experiments lately. There are step-by-step pictures on how to make sauces, main courses and breads from scratch – and of course, there was a guide on preparing asparagus. They are to be peeled from top to end, cut at the bottom, washed, tied together in a bundle and boiled for 20 minutes in water containing half a teaspoon of sugar and half a tablespoon of butter.

Cookbook pictures always make things look so easy, but peeling asparagus was actually harder than I thought. Despite my efforts to be careful, I managed to break about 5 asparagus spears (that's the plural form BTW, as I learned today). I could blame it on my iron hand, but I don't think it's any easier peeling a chopstick. The spear becomes thinner and limper until you come to a point where you don't know where to hold the asparagus anymore, and it becomes hard to peel it all the way down without breaking it at the point where you're holding. There must be a better technique I haven't quite gotten yet.

To make things more interesting, after I had cut and bundled up the asparagus, I discovered that the bundle wouldn't fit in the IKEA pot where I was to boil it. The spears were just too long. Even if I put them upright in the pot, there would still have been about two inches of asparagus tips sticking out of the water. I thought of cutting the spears in half, but tying such short stems together didn't seem like a genius idea. I cut them anyway and just skip the bundling altogether. Again, there must be a better technique I haven't quite gotten yet.

Anyway, the asparagus became a light dinner served with hollandaise sauce (from a box, not from scratch), some ham, and bread. Interestingly, the spears are much harder to break when cooked. They're even hard to cut into bite-sized pieces because of all the fibers. They also turned out soft and juicy, but since neither of us had prepared white asparagus before, we can't say if this was due to not bundling them up.

Nevertheless, they were good. The taste was mild, just as the sauce. Besides, they're supposed to be medicinal, that is, an effective diuretic. Not that I have a problem where that's concerned. But if you want to know, I also read that it makes your pee smell funky. Let's see. Heheh.

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