Signs of Spring

Some prefer thick spears, some prefer thin, we prefer both, and white asparagus, too.

Because asparagus is one of the few vegetables that intensifies the taste called umami, it pairs well with proteins and makes a terrific base for a first course or luncheon dish—see the recipes below. Whether spears are thick or thin, wash them, then break off the very end of each one.

If spears are thick, finish prepping them by peeling the thicker end with a vegetable peeler to get rid of the woody outer skin.

White asparagus—grown entirely underground—is more delicate in flavor and more fragile than green asparagus. It also cooks faster, so if you plan to combine colors as we have done in the recipes, cook asparagus separately.

Asparagus is good hot, cold or room temperature, so cook it ahead of time if you like. Use an asparagus steamer, or fill a large shallow pan (you can use a large frying pan) with water, bring it to a boil, drop the trimmed spears in, bring back to the boil and let simmer until asparagus is barely tender.

Remove it from the hot water and plunge it into ice water to chill it quickly. Drain on paper towels. Serving size depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or a main course.

These recipes make four servings:

Crabby Asparagus Dress asparagus, the first recipe among those below.

Crabby Asparagus Dress asparagus with a lemon vinagrettte and arrange on plate. Mix 1 cup lump crabmeat with ½-3/4 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons chopped green onion and the grated zest of one lemon. Season with salt and white pepper. Top asparagus spears with crab salad and garnish with a lemon slice.

Bacon Asparagus Make a vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar and canola oil. Dress the asparagus in the vinaigrette and arrange on the plate. Criss-cross 2 slices of cooked bacon on top of asparagus spears on each plate and sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds. (For a supper dish, top with a poached or fried egg.)

Pink Asparagus Fold 3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste into 1 cup of whipped cream. Season with a pinch of smoked paprika. Place a dollop of tomato cream on asparagus and scatter with a handful of halved grape tomatoes.

Asparagus Nicoise Dress asparagus with vinaigrette and arrange on the plate. For each serving, slice small boiled red-skinned new potato and arrange around asparagus. Scatter with whole or sliced black olives, a tablespoon of chopped scallions and ½ a hardboiled egg, chopped.