All about asparagus

asparagus

Spring is in the air, and the first vegetables of the season are hitting farmers' markets stalls. While ramps may have stolen the spotlight in recent years, asparagus remains perennially popular as a star of the spring vegetable pantheon. Since it's easy to overcook or underplay this delicate vegetable, The Washington Post chose asparagus as the ingredient in its annual sous-chef challenge.

The chefs had to follow several rules: they couldn't use more than six ingredients (not including salt and pepper), the recipes had to be "doable" for home cooks, and the dishes couldn't take more than an hour to prepare. The chefs were given few weeks to develop and tweat their recipes.

All three competitors expressed a longtime affinity for asparagus. Chef Nyi Nyi Myint likes to grill the spears and adopted a strategy of "fighting bold with bold", creating a spicy salad for the challenge. The ingredient limit caused last year's challenge winner, Faiz Ally, to "get particularly creative about how to get the most use out of each component." He used the green spears four ways, in a recipe that had at least 20 steps (the judges had to call time on Ally, which threw in question the "doability" of his recipe).

In the end, a simpler dish by chef Maureen Quinn was the winner. She placed lightly charred asparagus front and center in her Grilled Asparagus With Warm Spring Onion and Morel Vinaigrette. She also made some of her ingredients do double duty -  spring onions and morel mushrooms both went into the dressing and into a creamy puree. Quinn receives no money for winning the challenge but does get bragging rights, and her recipe was published with the article. 

The EYB Library contains many more great uses for fresh asparagus in over 2,700 online recipes, like the Absurdly addictive asparagus from indexed blog Food52 pictured above.

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