Early spring asparagus is one of the most eagerly awaited vegetables in our house. It finally made its debut last weekend at the University Farmers Market. The flavor of freshly harvested asparagus says spring in the Northwest even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
There are many ways to cook asparagus so we may have several entries devoted to these springtime spears. Since they are so fresh and tender now, I decided to cook very simply and pair them with a homemade mayonnaise loaded with chopped herbs from the garden.
The best way to store asparagus in the fridge is to place them in a jar partially filled with water. This will keep them fresh and crisp for several days.
Two of the easiest ways to prepare asparagus are steaming and roasting. Either way, holding a spear in your hand, bend it until it snaps off. It will break off at the point where it becomes woody. Discard the woody ends. I always read about peeling the ends with a vegetable peeler. I’ve never felt like the asparagus I get at the market needs that, but if they were very thick, I might try it.
To steam, place in a steaming basket over boiling water for 4-5 minutes or just until they are tender. To roast, place asparagus coated in olive oil, salt & pepper on a baking dish. Roast at 400 degrees for 9-10 minutes. You can check and turn them once after about 5 minutes. Roasting reduces the water content and concentrates the flavor, while steaming preserves the delicate freshness.
To make the mayo, place 2 medium egg yolks (I always wash the eggshell before cracking a raw egg), 3/4 teaspoon water, 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl.
Whisk the water, egg yolks, mustard and salt together. I used the whisk attachment on my handmixer but whisking by hand also works, or so I’m told.
In a measuring cup with a spout, measure 3/4 cup olive oil. Start whisking the olive oil into the mixture, drop by drop. It takes a while, as you can imagine. When it begins to thicken, add 11/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Keep whisking…then you can start adding the rest of the oil in a slow steady stream until it is all incorporated.
Chop about 2 tablespoon herbs — tarragon, chervil, chives are good ones to use. Stir the herbs into the creamy mayo.
Since this mayonnaise contain raw eggs, be sure to refrigerate until you use.
You can add mashed garlic first to this recipe to make aioli, or pickles, grated onion and capers at the end to make tartar sauce. For more mayo ideas, consult The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.