Rebecca Katz is unapologetic about her passion for asparagus, declaiming: “Can I help it if I wear my culinary heart on my sleeve?” This time of year, the founder of The Healing Kitchens Institute and author of “The Healthy Mind Cookbook” can often be found swooning over newly arrived spears at her local farmers’ market.
Asparagus is one of the tastiest and freshest indications of spring. Even better, the flowering perennial has a great health profile. “It’s anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants and contains more of the uber-antioxidant glutathione than any other fruit or vegetable,” Katz says.
She’s happy to see the end of an era when, as she puts it, “asparagus was boiled until it resembled a gray Seattle drizzle.” Her favorite preparation method is to roast the spears. “They become sweet and caramelized in a way that’s hard to believe until it’s tasted.”
Katz credits a wise Italian cook for imparting this culinary method that has helped her get the most out of every spear. First, peel the tough, stringy outer layer to expose sweet flesh beneath. Toss the peeled asparagus with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, spread in a single layer on a hotel pan, and bake in a 400-degree oven for about nine minutes. Squirt the roasted spears with fresh lemon and add good-quality shaved Parmesan. What happens next is up to you, but be aware that asparagus can make any number of dishes seem suddenly spring-like. Toss the roasted spears on fresh greens, and you’ll have springtime lunch or dinner special that will give your menu a seasonal touch. Or fold them into an omelet or tofu scramble for an upscale brunch offering.
Purple? Yes, please
By the way, Katz says, don’t pass up purple asparagus varieties if you happen to come across them at your local farmers’ market. The purple version tastes great and carries its own health halo. “It’s about 20 percent sweeter than the green variety, and the flavor is mild and nutty,” Katz says. “The purple hue indicates high levels of anthocyanidins, potent antioxidant flavonoids that have protective anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.”