In Season: A tale of two grilled asparagus

Farmers’ markets are cropping up nowadays even in the smallest of towns, as the public demand for better quality food continues to simmer.   And many food-obsessed (like yours truly) swear by the taste and nutrient content of certain homegrown fruits and vegetables.  With that notion, I decided a little one-on-one sparring was in order between two types of asparagus and a group of our friends…

Grilled asparagus with orange vinaigrette

To be clear, it’s the asparagus that went head to head, not my friends.    Organic farmers’ market versus plain old grocery store stalks.  The results were, well, interesting…

Asparagus6

Both groups of stalks stood the same test of time on the grill, and received the same orange vinaigrette treatment (recipe below).   Other than myself, all participants tasted blind, with the more eager eaters tasting sans dressing, in true professional fashion.

Grilled asparagus with orange vinaigrette

The results are shameful:  We all preferred the grocery store brand asparagus for taste.  However, we did recognize a woodsier element in the farmer’s market asparagus, and decided that meant they contained more soil-derived nutrients, and came to the table a lot quicker than the winner (some grocery store produce is in transit and on a shelf for weeks before consumption).

So there you have it, even a group of Southern California locavores can be bamboozled by the conventional vegetables we grew up with.  But no harm done, at least as adults we can recognize a healthy, organic stalk when we taste one.

Grilled Asparagus with Orange Vinaigrette
I love grilling asparagus in the spring and summer! They turn crispy and sweet and add a healthy touch to an otherwise guilt-inducing clan of burgers, ribs and pork.
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
  • Canola oil for grilling
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Vinaigrette
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter (either salted or unsalted)
  • 1 large navel orange, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small tangerines, peeled, segments divided
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
For Vinaigrette
  1. Sweat minced shallot in butter over low heat. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  2. Combine shallot with orange juice and honey. Whisk in olive oil to taste – look for a nice balance between the acid of the orange juice and the mouth-coating fat of the oil.
  3. Season to taste with salt. Store chilled.
For Asparagus
  1. Preheat grill to high heat. Brush grates with an oil-soaked towel to prevent sticking.
  2. Grill asparagus until lightly charred on all sides, turning occasionally. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Agitate vinaigrette to redistribute ingredients and drizzle over asparagus. Garnish with tangerine segments.
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