Today: How to eat the whole asparagus, from tip to tail.
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Whether you're a snapper or a slicer, lopping off the ends of a bunch of asparagus can feel almost as senseless as throwing away your own arm. Good asparagus is expensive and fleeting, so why do we waste so much of it? Do we have to?
I would wager that, despite our guilt, we throw away up to a third of the asparagus we buy—because fighting through a segment that's chewy or stringy would be worse. Harold McGee says we can shave the tougher ends into thin coins, but that only gets us so far. All the way to that dry scar at the end, asparagus still has something to offer, even if it's not texture or looks.
By adding the stock to a puréed asparagus soup, she gets the bright grassiness that comes with quickly cooking them, but a richer, earthier layer too. Suddenly, the least wasteful course of action is also the most flavorful (without a lot of extra trouble).
This is a well-constructed nose-to-tail recipe, in which Wayte uses the entirety of 2 bunches of asparagus in one complete dish, but no matter what you're doing with the rest of your bunches, you can and should simmer the ends. "Instead of a soup," Wayte told me, "you can use the same broth in a risotto or for the base of a pasta sauce." Braised fish or simmered grains or green juices might be more good ends for your ends.
And since we're thinking about waste, this recipe calls for the light belly section of a leek and half a garlic clove—you know where the remains can go. I think Wayte would approve.
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed (trimmings reserved), and coarsely chopped Sea salt 1/4 cup sliced almonds 2 tablespoons butter 1 large leek (white part only, green part reserved), sliced 1/2 clove garlic or 1 bulb spring garlic, trimmed 2 ounces blanched almonds (1/2 cup slivered) Freshly ground black pepper 1 cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest Squeeze of lemon juice
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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Photos by James Ransom
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."