Crown the Asparagus!
Asparagus! Let’s put a crown on it because it is a royal vegetable in my dining room! When our daughter was 12 years old, the Boy Scouts came to the door soliciting canned goods for the food pantry. She gave them all the canned asparagus in my cupboard. She hated it. Her daddy and I loved it. It was expensive, but it was gone!
You might be thinking “who wants canned asparagus” … but back then that was the only way we could get it year-round. I don’t even remember it being in the freezer section of the grocery store, and it was certainly only available seasonally as fresh produce.
My husband had grown up eating asparagus because it grew in his grandfather’s garden and was probably there because it had been on the old homestead for generations. It is commonly found that way! I had not grown up eating it. In fact, I probably had never eaten asparagus until I was married! That might be hard to imagine, but if my own grandfather or my dad didn’t like a vegetable … it was not grown in the family gardens. It would have been far too expensive at our favorite corner grocery if it were available at all.
My first relationship with asparagus was with an overly cooked incredibly soft vegetable, which my husband loved. My current relationship is much different! It is so good quickly blanched, chilled, and served with other crudités with a sour cream based dip. It is just as good, roasted gently and served alongside almost any meat! Who doesn’t love it steamed and served with a cheese or white sauce?
Asparagus has quite a history! It was being cultivated by the Greeks and the Romans a couple hundred years before the common era. There is indication that earlier Egyptians enjoyed it, as it appears in a specific frieze being offered to Nefertiti. Hippocrates used it to treat diarrhea and urinary issues. The Egyptians and the Romans believed that it was an aphrodisiac.
In the mid-1500s, asparagus was found on the menus of the royal courts of Europe. The next century, it was cultivated in France specifically for Louis XIV. A hundred years after that, it was finally becoming available in markets and was being written about.
North American history tells us that European settlers in 1655 brought asparagus for their gardens. A description of Dutch farming practices in the New World mentions asparagus. William Penn’s advertisements for moving to Pennsylvania (in 1685) included asparagus in a list of crops that grew well in America! By the end of the 19th Century, asparagus was being heavily cultivated in the United States, but was also an expensive product.
During my favorite vintage period, asparagus was popular. In my 1940 vegetable cookbook there is a recipe for “Crumbed Asparagus”. You boil the asparagus, drain it, bundle a few spears, and dip them in egg wash then in breadcrumbs … then gently fry the bundles. Breadcrumbs were in vogue in the 40s as we were not wasting food. In my 1950s vegetable cookbooks my favorite recipes include one of asparagus topped with white sauce with a red pimento strip placed across the sauce. What a pretty presentation! On the cover of one of those booklets is a picture of asparagus spears served over toast triangles and topped with cheese sauce. It was offered as an entrée, not as a side dish. In a 1970 vegetable cook booklet, recipes for creamed soups and souffles called for asparagus. That 1970 book also includes a recipe for roasted asparagus spears bundled with a strip of bacon! That technique has come around yet again!
I’m sharing a quick recipe for using asparagus in one of my favorite Asian recipes. You will not believe how easy this is to make. If you want to serve it with noodles or rice, go for it! I’m usually good with meat and vegetables!
Spicy Chicken with Asparagus
½ to 1 pound of chicken breast meat cut into bite-size pieces
8 stalks of asparagus (more or less) cut into bite-size pieces
3 green onions, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tomato chopped into bite-size pieces
½ cup chopped Tai Basil
2 Tablespoons of smoked sesame oil
Sauté the chicken breast pieces in the sesame oil until they begin to brown. Add the asparagus, onion and chopped basil and continue to sauté. At this point add the following:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon of white sugar
1 Tablespoon of Sriracha
A heavy sprinkle of garlic powder
A heavy sprinkle of black pepper
Gently heat all the ingredients until ready to serve. Stir in the tomato chunks and heat them through. Garnish with additional Tai Basil leaves.
This preparation takes less than 30 minutes!
This article is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project. Check the menu page to see similar posts. I'm also sharing with a couple parties shown on my sidebar. Make sure you click through for fun.
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