Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Roasted White Asparagus with Yoghurt Parsley Dressing

Every spring, white asparagus makes a brief appearance on the market, so transient they come and go with the blink of an eye. Between April and June, the spargel - the "vegetable that never sees light" - comes in great quantities across northwestern continental Europe, prominently stealing the limelight at market shop fronts and inspiring seasonal menus that showcase this treasured spring produce.

Less is certainly more here
In the U.S. and elsewhere where availability is far more limited, fresh white asparagus naturally makes for a luxurious spring delicacy. Just this month I was lucky enough to be in Switzerland and had the chance to graze through the markets at the peak of the German spargel season. The asparagus were all cultivated and imported from southern Germany just across the border; I realize I was about as close to the source as one could get. Enamored with the purity and beauty of the fat bundles of white spears on display, I inched in to hand pick the fairest of them all, pausing for a moment in hesitation at the hefty price tag that comes with.

Soon enough, I reckon that life is too short to deprive myself of such simple indulgence. My best friend in its baddest sense Angela, a foodie and passionate cook herself, is visiting once I return to Hong Kong - who else is best to savor this seasonal delicacy with, especially when they are at their peak and appear only briefly once a year?

Roast, grill, or steam? Roasting is certainly our way to go; watch as the natural sugars in the white asparagus caramelize!
And so, the fat bundle of immaculate white asparagus made its journey to my kitchen and culminated as a collaborative project between Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen and Angela's Foodicles (it's like we were having a field day, really). Milder in flavor and more tender than its green counterpart, white asparagus is best kept to its purest form in order to highlight its delicate sweetness. Deviating from the classic pairing of heavy hollandaise and cured hams, we instead took advantage of my rooftop garden and created a guilt-free, oh-so-simple herbaceous dressing that not only added an uplifting oomph but also allowed the star of the dish to shine through. Less is more here, for sure.

To prepare...
Get the spears naked by peeling & trimming
A dozen spears white asparagus
Olive oil to coat

For the dressing*...
1/4 tablespoon plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 generous bunch fresh parsley

*Want to get even simpler? Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, some salt and pepper for the dressing!

1. Preheat oven to 220C/420F. Trim a half inch off the base of the stalk.  Gently holding each spear, peel the stalk using a vegetable peeler starting from just below the head to remove the fibrous and sometimes bitter peel.

2. On a baking sheet pan, coat asparagus with olive oil and season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Place in oven and roast for approximately 17-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the spears, turning once midway for even browning. Before time is up check that the spears are slightly translucent and adjust roasting time for desired softness.

Asparagus will brown and shrink a little after roasting
3. Meanwhile, prepare the yoghurt parsley dressing by blending the yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley in a blender. Season with salt.

4. Transfer asparagus carefully for plating, then drizzle the dressing across or serve on the side as a dip. Enjoy!

Alvin & Angela

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