How I fell in love with Asparagus

I’m picky about my asparagus. I went through a phase of really disliking it… but then I learned how to cook it, and now I’m in love. There are two things that you must do before cooking asparagus to ensure that it is tender and delicious instead of stringy and tough: snap the ends off, and peel the skin off. Asparagus actually continues to grow after it’s picked, so you have to try and avoid ones that have started to open up at the tops (attempting to grow their flowers and spread their seeds even in the grocery store cooler!), and cook it soon after purchasing or it just won’t taste as good. Just now, as the spring asparagus season is winding down, I’ve found my all time favorite way (thus far) to cook asparagus. It came to me via David Tanis and his lovely book A Platter of Figs. We enjoyed this warm asparagus vinaigrette the other night along with stuffed chicken thighs, thyme scented canellini beans, and bread spread with freshly made olive relish…

Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette
Serves four

1 bunch fresh green asparagus
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. agave nectar

Break of the rough ends of asparagus spears and discard. There should be a place where the dry end of the spear will naturally snap, usually around one to two inches away from the end.
Peel the spears with a vegetable peeler unless they are very thin and tender already.
Fill a large pot with water, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette:
Soak the shallots in the red wine vinegar with a little salt for a few minutes.
Add the olive oil and some freshly ground pepper and the agave, and whisk until combined. Taste and reseason, adding more vinegar and salt if necessary.
Just before you’re ready to eat, put the asparagus in the boiling water and simmer for 3 to 8 minutes, until they are just barely tender, and bright green.
Remove the asparagus from the water with tongs, and lay out to drain on a clean kitchen towel for a couple minutes.
Place the asparagus on a platter, whisk the vinaigrette and pour it evenly over the asparagus.