Asparagus Field (Author H. Zell, via Wikimedia Commons)
On Saturday, I stalked my first asparagus and tasted spring. I was even sufficiently obsessive to stand in from of the basket at Allandale Farms, sorting them to select the ones about three-quarters the diameter of my pinkie. One of the few culinary tragedies of Boston is that it is remarkably difficult (and expensive!) to buy good, fresh asparagus. I firmly believe that the best asparagus should have been picked within the last 24 hours and stored primarily with the stems in water. Once the stalks start to die, the flavor depresses and reminds me of cafeteria broccoli. This is apparently foreign to most of Boston’s grocers, who stock asparagus from Mexico and Peru even once local asparagus season has started. I don’t get it.

Like I said, I recommend eating it ASAP, but otherwise, take it home, trim off the bottom 1/4-1/2″ and store upright in jars (like flowers in a vase) with about 3/4″ water in the bottom.

Asparagus shines in this simple dish, very lightly cooked with a touch of garlic. I’ve even converted non-asparagus eaters to enjoying it this way!

Simple Semi-Steamed Asparagus with Garlic

Serves two

1 bunch asparagus
2 t butter or olive oil
1 small clove garlic, sliced thin
2-3 T white wine or water

Wash and trim the asparagus. Cut off the tough ends. You may not need to remove much, but it will depend on how your asparagus was grown and picked. Taste a piece or two to see. Cut the stalk into 3″ pieces, separating the tips from the stalks. Sort the stalks roughly into fatter and thinner pieces.

Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic, and stir until fragrant. Toss in the fatter stalks, and stir until coated with the butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the thinner stems, and cook for 1 minute. Finally, stir in the water/wine and the tips. Cover tightly, and steam for 2-3 minutes or until just bright green and barely tender. Season will a sprinkle of salt and pepper, if desired. Serve immediately. This is actually best eaten straight out of the pan, so snag a piece or two as you plate it.