Spring Produce Superstars: Asparagus & Artichokes

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It's artichoke and asparagus season! Produce Expert Josh Alsberg stopped by to share his best tips about the two powerhouse vegetables. For more produce information from Josh, check out his Instagram page.

It's time for some Spring Superstars! Asparagus and Artichokes are the spring vegetables we look forward to seeing, every year, and for good reason. They are easy, versatile and simply delicious. But there are a few tricks to preparing them right.

Asparagus:

Size matters! Asparagus comes in thick spears and tiny little pencil-thin shoots - they are both delicious, if you treat them right.

• Thick asparagus is great for grilling, stir fry or high-heat roasting: any method where you want to get a little searing and color on your spears before you serve them. This is the asparagus that can stand up to bold sauces and big flavors.

• Thin asparagus should be treated gently and just barely cooked. A few minutes of steaming, just a quick blanche for 30 to 60 seconds. Just enough to carry away any raw astringency, but not so much that your spears go limp. Serve thin asparagus with delicate butter and herb sauces or an aioli.

• In-between asparagus can play either role, just be careful not to over cook it. Look for a crisp-tender texture.

How to prepare: There is a great debate over whether to snap or peel. We think it depends on the size.

• Thin asparagus is perfect for the snap method. Simply hold either end of the asparagus, bend and let it snap in two - it will naturally do so at the point where it is tender.

• With thick asparagus, you lose a lot of tasty stem if you snap it in half. Instead just trim off any clearly woody stem and peel the lower third of the spear with a few quick swipes of your vegetable peeler. It's a bit more work, but it also means more asparagus for you and your family!

No matter whether you are getting thick or thin asparagus, look for spears that have tightly closed buds and tips, that are free of wrinkles or that are limp. Also, darker asparagus tends to be fresher.

Lastly, keep an eye out for purple asparagus! The flavor is the same, but the color really pops!

Artichokes:

Artichokes are an easy spring crowd pleaser. A little bit of trimming and a good dipping sauce or two and you have an elegant appetizer for a party or a great snack food for sitting in front of the TV.

Artichokes may be flower buds, but they are sturdy, easy to prepare in advance and oh so tasty!

How to trim:

• Cut off all but 1/2 inch of stem.

• Cut off the tips of the leaves. To do this, cut off the top 1"-2" of the flower and then use scissors to trim any thorny tips off the outer petals.

• Trimming the petals this way allows the steam to enter into the deepest part of the flower bud, cooking the artichoke thoroughly. It also makes sure your family or guests don't get poked by a thorn!

To cook an artichoke in the simplest way, place it flower-down in a steamer basket over simmering water, covering the pot, and let the artichoke steam for 45 minutes to an hour. You'll know it's done when a knife slips into the thickest part of the stem as easily as if it was warm butter. At this point you can serve the artichoke hot, or set it aside to cool and serve it at room temperature later. They'll keep, cooked, in the refridgerator for at least a day.

Speaking of which, we love to serve artichokes with meyer lemon butter: just combine meyer lemon juice and zest with melted butter and a little salt and yum!


Alsberg's Aioli

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon (a Meyer lemon is perfectly fine too), for juice and zest.
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup Grapeseed Oil or other neutral tasting oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt plus more to taste

Put one farm-fresh egg yolk, the juice and zest of half a lemon, and a clove of garlic in a small food processor or a blender, along with about an eighth teaspoon of salt. Process, scaping down the sides if necessary, until no large chunks of garlic remain.

With the motor running, add olive oil, starting with just a few big drops at a time and working up to a thin stream as the aioli comes together. After you've added about half a cup, taste. It will probably need both more salt and more lemon juice and zest. Also: extra virgin olive oil can be a bit bitter, so at this point you might switch to grapeseed oil to smooth it out. Add at least another quarter cup of oil. Taste, stir in more salt or lemon as needed.

To switch it up, consider using a bit of blood orange instead of all lemon, or use "agrumato" olive oil - oil where lemons or oranges are crushed with the olives in the olive mill. The aioli on AM Northwest was made with a bit of Katz Meyer lemon olive oil.