Grilled Spring Spear

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Asparagus is the most revered spring vegetable. The word asparagus comes from the ancient Persian word asparag, meaning a sprout. The ancient Egyptians cultivated asparagus and offered it to numerous gods and the Romans had an expression, “Velocius quam asparagi coquantur”, meaning faster than you can cook asparagus. It was a rare and expensive vegetable in the 1890s in the United States, but then cultivation helped to tame the price. It was inevitable that the asparagus should be treated as an aphrodisiac given its shape, which, an Elizabethan writer remarked, it ‘manifestly provoked Venus.”  

Tips:

Although grown in quite a large scale and in many countries, asparagus is available in abundance from March to late June. There are over 300 varieties of asparagus, only 20 of which are edible. 

They are divided into three main categories: 

Green asparagus. This is the most common type of asparagus. It is harvested at a height of about 8 inches. 

White asparagus. Grown in the dark (covered with soil to keep it from turning green), white asparagus is harvested as soon as it emerges from the ground. Although more tender than the green variety, it tends to be less flavorful, and is more expensive, since more work is required to grow it. 

Purple asparagus: This variety has a fruity flavor and is harvested when only 2 to 3 inches high. 

How to buy asparagus: 

Whether asparagus are thin or thick, choose them with firm, crisp stalks and compact brightly colored heads with no trace of rust or softness. The bottom of the stalk should be moist when squeezed, not dry and woody. Avoid yellowish asparagus with soft stalks that are beginning to flower, these are signs that it is old.

Store asparagus vertically in 1 inches of water in a container, stem-side-down in the refrigerator.

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Serve this easy make-ahead dish as a starter or a side.  The asparagus is enhanced by the marinade and grilling.

Grilled Asparagus

Makes four servings

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George Hirsch Lifestyle

1 pound fresh asparagus

1/4 cup olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

4 cloves

Caramelized Garlic

, chopped

1 Tablespoon  of fresh oregano, chopped

2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup calamata olives, pitted and split

Fresh ground black pepper

Cut the stem ends off the asparagus and discard; peel the asparagus up to the beginning of the tip ends with a vegetable peeler. 

Combine a 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano in a shallow rectangular dish. Marinate the asparagus in this mixture for 1 hour. 

Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium temperature.

Remove the asparagus from the marinade and grill for about 5 minutes, basting with the marinade. Turn the asparagus as needed so they do not burn. 

Remove the asparagus from the grill, top with lemon zest, parmesan cheese and olives. Top with remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

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Thanksgiving Countdown: Memorable Veggie Sides

Question- is the turkey the hero or are the side dishes? I say- it depends on the what the sides are. First, I promise not to serve up grey string beans and soggy canned corn then expect you to ask for seconds.

There's the trick to my veggie side dish mix that makes them stand out on their own. And, I have taken the stress away. Stop trying to get everything to the table hot. Opt out! That’s right! Don’t serve a complete menu of all hot sides. It can be a little stressful, even for the most experienced chef especially when having your mother-in-law looking over your shoulder thinking out loud- that's not how I do it.

Also, don’t feel compelled to make too many items. Do a few well is better than too many average. Prepare some traditional favorite family sides, then try out a new dish to start your own tradition. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Bacon

Garlic Artichokes

Roasted Root Vegetables

Grilled Asparagus

Fennel & Green Bean Salad

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

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What's Coming Up Monday: Thanksgiving Turkey Countdown Continues with More Sides: Potatoes, Stuffings & Dressings