Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives May 27 2015, Page 22

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - May 27, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C1 No need to binge on Aquarius / C3 ARTS & LIFE ARTS@ FREEPRESS. MB. CA I WINNIPEGFREEPRESS. COM WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2015 C 1 Fresh, local asparagus ( not the woody imported stuff) is in stores now, and it’s ready for your table SPEAR SOME FLAVOUR T HERE’S an upside to the rains that tormented Manitobans over the May long weekend. All that moisture — coupled with warm weather the following week — turned out to be perfect for asparagus. The first local crop of produce of the season has made its way on to grocery shelves and those purple- headed, green stalks are perfect right now. Manitoba asparagus is so tender and juicy at the moment, you can eat it raw, unmodified by any preparation and unadorned by any seasoning. Don’t even worry about searching for slender stalks, as even the larger bunches are excellent at this juncture — provided you chow down on the local stuff. “ Asparagus right now is at peak of the season because all the right variables are there,” says Marc DeGagne, co- owner of Crampton’s market on Waverley Street. “ You’ve got some moist soil from the rain. It’s warm, but not overly hot — and they’re fresh- picked.” Fresh local asparagus is to the imported stuff what a July garden tomato is to a January greenhouse product: vastly superior in both flavour and texture. Technically, asparagus isn’t the first local delicacy to show up on the shelves of produce retailers every spring. That honour goes to pair of wild- harvested commodities: morel mushrooms and fiddleheads, or baby ostrich ferns. But since fiddleheads retail for about $ 24 a kilogram and morels can easily sell for double that price, both are just indulgences most Manitobans can only afford to sample once a season, if at all. Asparagus, which is cultivated, is far more affordable. Even the fresh- picked Manitoba stuff is within the means of most consumers. A quick survey of higher- end Winnipeg produce stores on Monday found local asparagus retailing for $ 8.80 per kilogram at Jardins St- Léon on St. Mary’s Road, $ 9.92 per kilogram at Crampton’s and $ 10 a kilogram at Vic’s on Pembina Highway. That means a pound of fresh asparagus will set you back no more than $ 4.50. And you might be able to snag a better deal at a farmer’s market, depending on the competition. If you pick up a bunch of Manitoba asparagus, definitely try it raw. Or dip stalks into the condiment of your choice. Make an aioli if you must, but there’s no shame in store- bought mayo, if that works for you. Slice fresh- picked asparagus into the salad of your choice. Steam it lightly and serve it with a pat of butter. Grill it on the barbecue. Whatever you do, eat the fresh stuff within a day of buying it, don’t trim it at all and certainly don’t diminish the grassy flavour by overcooking it or suffocating it beneath a heavy sauce. That treatment is only necessary for imported winter stalks. Here are a couple of simple recipes for fresh asparagus — double them as needed or amend them as you wish with other seasonings: bartley. kives@ freepress. mb. ca By Bartley Kives Grilled asparagus One bunch of asparagus One clove of garlic, peeled and minced ( optional) Canola, sesame, flax or other oil that can withstand heat Balsamic vinegar, to taste Kosher or sea salt, to taste If you’ve bought fresh- picked Manitoba asparagus, there’s no need to prep the stalks. If you’re dealing with imported asparagus, snap off any woody lower stems. Toss with garlic, if desired, and just enough oil to lightly coat asparagus stalks. Douse with a liberal dose of vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat, ideally in a barbecue stir- fry pan, brushing with additional vinegar, if desired. The stalks are done in mere minutes. Serve immediately. Raw asparagus salad 1 bunch of fresh, local asparagus 5 ml ( 1 tsp) lemon juice, or to taste 5 ml ( 1 tsp) wine vinegar, or to taste 30 ml ( 2 tbsp) olive oil, or cold- pressed canola or flax oil One shallot, peeled and minced ( or a small chunk of red onion, minced) Ground black pepper, to taste Coarse salt, to taste A handful fresh basil or flat parsley leaves, finely chopped Palmful of shaved hard Italian cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and oil, adjusting proportions to desired tartness. Add shallot or onion, pepper, salt and herbs. Combine. Wash asparagus and slice thinly on the bias, or diagonally. You can do this with a knife, a grater or a food processor. Toss asparagus with dressing. Sprinkle cheese over top. Serve. Crampton’s co- owner Marc DeGagne. LARRY CROWE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES TONI L. SANDYS / THE WASHINGTON POST FILES Raw asparagus salad. C_ 01_ May- 27- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C1 5/ 26/ 15 7: 04: 05 PM

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