A little sparring among friends and bunches of organic and conventional grilled asparagus! The winner of the battle for flavor below, along with a citrusy, sweet and simple vinaigrette recipe.
The challenge: organic vs conventional grilled asparagus
To be clear, it's the asparagus that went head to head, not my friends. Organic farmers' market versus plain old grocery store stalks. In the end, the results of our backyard barbecue battle were, well, interesting. But first, let's talk asparagus prep and technique.
Chef's trick for trimming asparagus
An easy, reliable way to remove the excessively woody section of asparagus stem is to hold one stalk by each end, and bend until it breaks in two. Then trim the entire bunch to the length of the stalk that you snapped naturally.
How to grill asparagus
I hesitated to even write more than a sentence about grilling asparagus, because truly it's the simplest of cooking tasks. One chef's tip I will offer is to oil your grill well with one that can withstand high heat. Avocado (my favorite), coconut and canola oil all have a high smoke point. Save olive oil for finishing, as it will smoke (burn) at high temperatures.
When grilling meat or fish you don't want to flip but once, but thin vegetables like asparagus can burn easily if not watched carefully. The goal is to grill a nice golden char on the stalks, but not to obliterate them. This is easily accomplished with a medium-high grill heat, occasional turning, and a watchful eye.
The taste test
Now back to the battle of two asparagus. Both groups of stalks stood the same test of time on the grill. Other than myself, all participants tasted blind, with the more eager eaters tasting sans dressing, in true professional fashion.
The grilled asparagus winner
The results are shameful: We all preferred the conventional asparagus. However, we did recognize a woodsier element in the organic, farmer's market asparagus, and decided that meant they contained more soil-derived nutrients.
And also that they most likely came to the table a lot quicker than the winner (some grocery store produce is in transit and on the shelf for weeks before you bring it home). For a great read on organic versus conventional farming from the Rodale Institute, check this out.
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.
Yours in asparagus,Print
An amazingly simple, quick way to cook a flavorful springtime vegetable! The sweet citrus vinaigrette balances out the earthiness of the asparagus.
- 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed at the bottom of the stalk where they naturally snap
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 navel orange, juiced
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small tangerines, peeled, segmented
- Salt and pepper
- Avocado or coconut oil, for grill
- Cook minced shallot in butter or oil over low heat. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Combine shallot with orange juice and honey. Whisk in olive oil.
- Season to taste with salt. Store chilled if not using same day, bring to room temperature before serving.
- Preheat grill to high heat. Brush grates with a high heat oil like avocado.
- Grill asparagus until lightly charred on all sides, turning occasionally. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Shake or whisk vinaigrette and drizzle over asparagus. Garnish with tangerine segments.