Crisp, fresh asparagus isn't just for dinner anymore. No, really. Asparagus tastes great with breakfast.
Each year, I get excited about the return of asparagus. Fresh asparagus has a wonderful sweet quality. Children don't jump up and down when they see green tips of asparagus sticking out of the top of the brown grocery bag. Now if you held out SweeTarts, Pixy Stix or Bubble Yum, you'd get some jumping. Perhaps society should define adulthood as whether or not you jump up and down when you see fresh asparagus. Then again, maybe not. After all, when growers harvest asparagus at the right time, asparagus consists of up to 4% sugar.
It's true that asparagus shows up at some grocery stores in December--in fact, all year round. However, the 5,940 mile trip doesn't improve the flavor, texture or quality of asparagus. Not to mention that it's probably been sprayed with pesticides that the US government banned back in 1972. Asparagus comes from the lilly family and only offers tender shoots in spring. Asparagus, like corn, converts the retained sugars into other substances in a relatively short period. Asparagus tastes best when consumed within 24 hours of being picked. So if you don't see tender little shoots of grass popping up in your neighborhood to celebrate spring, don't buy asparagus. Most of the sweetness left the asparagus at mile 3,728.
Asparagus pairs well with various cured or smoked meats at breakfast. Wrap some asparagus in prosciutto, toss it into an oven preheated to 400 F and then give it about 12 - 15 minutes. Fabulous with rye bread and eggs any style. I love to steam asparagus (about 3 minutes for pencil sized, about 5 minutes for magic marker sized) and serve it alongside poached eggs over smoked salmon on one of Rudi's organic whole wheat English muffins. Rudi's English muffins provide a substantial texture and rich flavor that the overly processed white flour English muffins don't. They're hard to find, so I always get them at El Cerrito Natural Grocery. The smoked salmon not only gives you the omega-3 fatty acids you need, it provides a rich counter point to the sweetness of the asparagus.
For those of you who loathe eggs and think them slimy like snot, asparagus tastes great with ham, toast and fresh mandarins. You could also make a quick orange sauce for the green veggie.
Basic Orange Sauce
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons mild white vinegar
1 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Cook sauce until it's reduced and thickened. Add some sautéed garlic, ginger, orange rind or red pepper flakes to give it some kick.