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The first asparagus (and their stalks)

(post, Robert Reynolds)

So there they were; local asparagus from Sherwood at the Saturday market. Six bundles of them; four were finger thick, two were pencil sized. I would have taken the pencil sized ones except there weren't enough for the 12 people I was cooking for. 

I lined up the four bundles, moving them like chess pieces closer to me. I reached into my pocket for money, and wouldn't you know, someone came along, eyed my (as in mine) nicely arranged asparagus, and started to make a move on them. "No," I began, "these are mine. Those over there are available to you." We laughed and discussed the merits of thin versus not thin asparagus.

Back in the kitchen, I snapped one to see where the give point on the  stalk was then took a nicely sharpened chef's knife and cut the bundle. I put the cut ends into a bag for recycling, and moved on to trim the next bundles.

I like to prepare asparagus in a straight sided skillet. I add a couple of inches of water, bring it to a boil, toss in salt and then the asparagus. When the water comes back to a boil, I add half a cup of cold water to lower the temperature. The procedure allows the cooking to be gentler on the tips, while the stalks still cook. After the second addition of cold water, I remove one, test its doneness by slicing a small piece from the bottom of the stalk. When they are the way I like them, I stop the cooking. If I'm serving them warm I just pat them dry, and move them to a plate. If I'm going to serve them later, I run them under cold water to stop the cooking.

Having tasted these asparagus, I discovered how vibrant and sweet they were.  I could just have eaten them like that. I decided all they'd get was coarse salt and excellent olive oil. As I went for the oil and salt my mind came back to the trimmings I'd set aside. "If the asparagus are this good," I reasoned, "then those stalks are too good to throw away."

I washed them, sliced them finger thick, and cooked them in about 1-1/2 quarts of water. I simmered them for 20 minutes or so until they were well over cooked. I put everything in the blender and liquified it. Next I strained the liquid to rid it of all the fibrous stuff. The asparagus water is sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be used to make risotto which I'll do as soon as get more asparagus to garnish the dish.