My partner and I were the first to arrive after school and work, so we offered to help prepare. Anthony helped with man-stuff like yard work, and I was authorized command of the kitchen. I was shown the available foods to work with, which included two bunches of asparagus.
As luck would have it, I had THE BEST COOKBOOK I'VE EVER READ with me. I had been reading "the Locavoere's Kitchen: A Cook's Guide to Seasonal Eating and Preserving" by Marilou K. Suszko. A preview can be found here on google books, but I highly recommend immediately purchasing this book or getting it at a library, like I did, NOW! I rarely read cookbooks cover to cover, but this one was like a suspense novel - I could not put it down! Most of the recipes are simple enough for even a novice to master, using ingredients you *should* have in your well-stocked cooking kitchen.
I made the two asparagus recipes that were the simplest, and most suited to a birthday cookout menu - Beer Battered Asparagus Spears and Crunchy Asparagus Spears. Sadly, no pictures were taken, as if there would have been time to photograph these delightful foods - as the book predicted, the asparagus disappeared as soon as it was ready.
So I'll have to go to the Farmer's Market this weekend, make them again so I can show you some pictures, if you can't tell from the recipe on google books how good these are going to be!!!
Beer Battered Asparagus Spears
from the Locavore's Kitchen, by Marilou K. Suszko
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed, dried, tough ends trimmed
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or ½ tsp table salt)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 oz beer (1 ½ cups) – I used a room temperature Pabst
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
In a shallow baking dish, combine the flour and the seasonings. Slowly stir in the beer until the batter is smooth and thick enough to cling to the asparagus (using all of the beer may not be necessary)
Heat ½ - 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the asparagus through the batter, coating each stalk completely. Fry in the hot oil until golden and puffy, about 4 minutes, turning once. If the spears are browning too quickly, reduce heat a little.
Drain the spears on a paper towel-lined tray before serving
“This is one of those recipes that disappear almost as fast as they come out of the pan. Use thicker spears of fresh homegrown asparagus, tender to begin with. A quick bath in the hot oil makes them almost melt in your mouth…and using beer from a local microbrewery keeps it all in the local family.”
“How do you know if the oil is hot enough? Place a drop of batter in the oil, if it sizzles immediately, it’s ready. Too hot? The oil smokes.”
I only use safflower or sunflower oil for frying. Canola oil is most likely made from genetically modified ingredients, as is soybean vegetable oil – both canola and regular “vegetable” oil have low smoking temperatures. When oil smokes it releases free radicals which are harmful to the body. Using an oil with a high smoking temp such as safflower or sunflower ensures a non-smoky oil for frying.