When I was a child in northern Missouri, our primary garden vegetables were tomatoes, corn, and green beans. My parents said those were the main garden vegetables when they were kids, too. So even though we had delicious homegrown and (though we didn’t know it) organic vegetables, I never actually ate asparagus until I was in college. And it was love at first sight.
Imagine a few years later when a friend who grew up in rural Kansas said they often found wild asparagus by the side of the road and picked it for that night’s dinner. That would be like finding gold, I thought. I think it might have also grown wild in northern Missouri, and I just didn’t know what it was.
The first time I ate asparagus, the family who served it said they always steamed it and served it lathered with mayo. Later I discovered it’s good just about any way. Maybe that’s why it appears in the oldest collection of recipes known to exist, the De re coquinaria, Book 3, by Apicius in the third century.
Asparagus is even a magical word. Spell it backwards and you get a food ingredient I like and a type of music I don’t like.
Not able to leave a good thing alone, I decided to experiment with asparagus. And here’s a great, simple recipe that brings out the best of this early-summer vegetable while making it fit for a king.
Asparagus with a Zing
- 1 lb. asparagus spears, washed, woody ends snapped off
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teas. dried parsley
- 1/2 teas. horseradish
- 1 tablesp. dijon mustard
- 1/4 teas. paprika (I prefer Hungarian paprika because it is sweeter, but regular will do)
Mix horseradish, dijon mustard and paprika into a paste. Set aside. Heat olive oil and parsley in a skillet on medium heat. When hot, add asparagus. Saute, with constant attention for five minutes. Pour off remaining oil, turn heat to low. Add paste mixture, blend throughout asparagus, and stir. Serve immediately.