Monday, May 13, 2013

Andalucian Asparagus

It is spring time and, of course, thoughts turn to all of those wonderful vegetables that happen to be in season right now.  One of those vegetables is the asparagus.  This vegetable has been around for centuries.   The earliest reference to asparagus can be found on an Egyptian frieze that dates back to 3,000 B.C.  

Fast forward to recent times, and I can say that I was never a big fan of asparagus.  I never ate it as a child or even as an adult.  I have only begun eating the vegetable in recent years.  Although my favorite way to prepare asparagus is to grill the vegetable, I have been looking at other preparations.  

I recently came across a recipe for Andalucian Asparagus, which is apparently a homage to the way the vegetable is prepared in southern Spain. The asparagus season is a very important one in Spain, and its availability leads to dishes like this one.  The recipe calls for using the thin asparagus, although the ones I used were a little more on the thicker side.  The recipe also calls for removing the crust from the bread used to make the topping; however, I did not want to waste that crust.  So, I just left the crust on the bread.

Recipe from The New Mediterranean Cookbook at 295
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds of young asparagus
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves peeled
12 blanched almonds
1 2-inch slice of crusty country-style bread, 
     crusts removed, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon very good quality sherry vinegar
Sea salt

1.  Prepare the asparagus.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the asparagus, rinse and set aside.

2.  Prepare the topping.  Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, almonds and bread and saute, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are nicely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Do not let them burn.  Transfer the almonds, garlic and bread cubes with a slotted spoon to a food processor or blender.  Add the vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and process briefly until the mixture is a coarse meal.  

3.  Saute the asparagus.  In the oil remaining in the pan, saute the asparagus over medium low heat until the stalks change color and start to become tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. (You may need to add another tablespoon or two of oil.)  Remove the asparagus and place in an ovenproof gratin dish.  Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour it over the asparagus.  Then sprinkle the almond-bread mixture over the top.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid has boiled away.  Serve immediately.


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