The season’s mascot readies for pizza menu
After a long winter, asparagus is one of the first signs of spring, a preview of the bounty of fresh produce that is beginning to come available. Its season varies around the country and typically ranges from February to June, with April being peak asparagus month.
Those gorgeous spears have a unique flavor that is bright, clean and a bit earthy. It’s a versatile vegetable well-deserving of a spot on your menu in salads, pastas and as a pizza topping. You do not have to settle for the green variety, either. Although more challenging to source, white and purple bunches can make a beautiful presentation and generally have a milder flavor.
Asparagus pairs well with proteins like bacon, prosciutto, pancetta, chicken and egg. Lemon and garlic are a perfect accompaniment to asparagus. Herbs like tarragon, chives, dill and rosemary can stand up to the strong flavor of asparagus.
There is a wide selection of cheeses to pair with asparagus. You can go mild with mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, fontina or burrata. Add a bold complement like Parmesan, Pecorino, bleu cheese or goat cheese.
When inspecting your produce delivery, fresh asparagus bunches should be vibrant green with dark green or purple-tinged tips. Stalks should be firm. If it’s bitter, sour or has lost its snap, the asparagus is past its prime.
Bunches should be stored in the coolest part of your refrigerator, away from the walk-in door. Shelf life is normally three to four days when stored properly.
Asparagus may be used in their original long spear form or cut stalks into one- or two-inch pieces. Be sure to trim off the woody ends. One of the best methods for pizza is to shave the stalks length-wise with a peeler. The ribbons present beautifully.
In addition to using asparagus raw, it can be prepared in a number of ways — blanched, steamed, sautéed or roasted. However, it is easy to overcook and end up a soggy mess. It’s better to have a little crunch than mush.
Asparagus Three Ways:
Try out the following pasta, salad and pizza recipes that make asparagus shine.
- Spring Lemon Garlic Penne
The season calls for a light, flavorful and fresh pasta. This is a super simple pasta that can be made to order.
Get the Spring Lemon Garlic Penne recipe.
- Asparagus and Potato Niçoise Salad
While this salad may be French in origin, it has become popular on American menus. Traditionally, it’s made with tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, anchovies and olive oil. There are several variations. Some include green beans and potatoes. This is the perfect recipe to substitute the green beans for asparagus spears. Allow customers to add on grilled salmon or tuna.
Get the Asparagus and Potato Niçoise Salad recipe.
- Shaved Asparagus and Egg Pizza
Egg and asparagus go so well together that this breakfast-style pizza can be served all day long. For extra panache, roast the asparagus tips with olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and then sprinkled around the pizza. You can go heavy on the shaved asparagus so that you create the perfect nest for the egg to sit in.
Get the Shaved Asparagus and Egg Pizza recipe.
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.