Asparagus is finally back at the farmers markets. At least for the next week or two, if you want local asparagus, you’ll have to get to the market early, no later than half an hour after opening. The first farm to return with asparagus this year was Alm Hill Gardens. They are selling this early asparagus for $6/lb and it is about the sweetest asparagus you’ll ever taste. In fact, it was so good that I have a little confession at the end of this recipe.
Now let’s talk about balsamic vinegar. That’s not local, right? So why is it a main ingredient in this recipe? Well, two reasons. One, we love it. So we do make an exception and buy non-local balsamic vinegar. But now, we don’t have to. Rockridge Orchards showed up at the University District Farmers Market this weekend with Rocksalmic Vinegar. It’s a 100% apple wine vinegar aged in French Oak barrels for 7 years. They’ve done it. They’ve made balsamic. When I found out I told Wade I loved him. I don’t think my husband minded. Granted, at $15/bottle, I won’t use this balsamic in everyday recipes. I’ll save it for dipping and drizzling. It is just wonderful to know that we finally have a high quality balsamic available in Seattle. Vancouver Island has balsamic vinegar as well, but as far as I know, they aren’t exporting to the U.S., so you’ll have to travel to buy some.
Serves 2 (if you want to share)
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1 stalk rhubarb, sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 Tbsp + 1-2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Trim the woody ends off the asparagus. It’s pretty easy to know where to trim, your knife will tell you. If you feel a good amount of resistance, you’re trimming a little low.
- Peel the bottom third of the asparagus.
- Toss the asparagus in 1 Tbsp olive oil and place in oven safe dish in a single layer.
- Roast for 10 minutes, or until the tips are starting to crisp and the stalks are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining 1-2 tsp olive oil (just approximating is fine here).
- Saute the shallots for 3-4 minutes or until softened.
- Add the rhubarb, balsamic, sugar, and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring regularly for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and the rhubarb is soft.
- Process the mix in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Serve over or alongside the asparagus.
Notes: So this is where I need to make a confession. I had exactly three bites of this dish. I tasted the sauce (delicious, rich, vinegary, complex), and I took a couple of stalks of asparagus and dipped them in the sauce. Good balance, nice mix of flavors. But then, while John was photographing the dish, I picked up a spear of asparagus and ate it plain. And then another, and another, and when he returned with the plated dish, we consumed every last one of those stalks plain. So, would I make this dish again? Absolutely. It was simple and delicious. Would I make it with the very first bunch of asparagus I bought this year? Absolutely not. Take the first bunch and just follow the oven roasting instructions. Eat it plain and enjoy every bite.
Peeling the asparagus
I’ve never peeled asparagus before. I don’t really think you need to, however I do think it makes a huge difference in texture. When you cook a peeled stalk, every last bite is tender. Without peeling, sometimes the lower third of the stalk can be a bit tough and woody. You do lose a little bit of asparagusy goodness with the peeling, and I wouldn’t peel the thin stalks at all, but if you’ve got stalks that are the thickness of your thumb or index finger, give the lower third a quick peel. You’ll really notice the texture difference.
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