It’s spring and the slow start to the season has kept the temperatures lower than usual. In fact, I spoke with a farmer last week and for him this year’s cool spring has delayed his harvest schedule by at least two weeks . Right now the most exciting veggies at my farmers’ market are ramps of superb quality and asparagus, the price of which dropped to a reasonable level last week.
Enough with the talking—let's jump right into cooking.
Traditionally I blanch asparagus and ramps, which is cooking it in boiling water. Blanching is a quick affair generally, but a fraction of a minute too long in the boiling water takes away the vitality of these vegetables because they overcook very easily. This year I have been experimenting with vegetable slow-cooking methods and this process is totally growing on me! Using the slow cooking method, the identity of ramps and asparagus —meaning the flavor—comes through much better. Also, I find the texture better highlights the individuality of each vegetable. The tender-natured asparagus and ramps texture is retained and it is neither crunchy and undercooked nor overcooked and flavorless. Winner!
A few simple steps have to be followed to make the slow vegetable cooking method for asparagus and ramps a success.
1) Clean the veggies throughoutly . Cut off 2 ½ inches of the bottoms of asparagus stalks. This part is often dried out and woody; throw it out. Cut off the dirty roots of ramps.
2) Place the vegetables in separate heatproof containers. Containers should be large enough to hold the right amount of water. For example, put 1 pound of asparagus into a gallon-sized container and place a ¼ pound of ramps into a 2-quart container.
3) For each pound of vegetables, measure 1 quart of water.
4) For each quart of water, add 1 teaspoon of salt. My preferred salt is sea salt.
5) Bring the measured amount of water to boil and pour over the vegetables.
6) Set a timer. Steep the vegetables for 2 ½ minutes. Jumbo asparagus will need longer, about 4 minutes of cooking time.
7) Add ice. For the best results, use the same volume of ice as you did of water.
For example, if I pour 4 cups of boiling water over the asparagus, I use 4 cups of ice cubes so that the asparagus is rapidly chilled. The quick-chilling process is important so that the vegetables retain their bright green color and valuable nutrients. Further, this process helps each vegetable retain its perfect shape.
8) Gently lift the veggies out of the water and dry on paper towels.
Below are the steps you can follow to slow cook vegetables. Following them will make your slow cooking of asparagus and ramps a success.
Slice into 1-inch long pieces and toss into a salad of butter lettuce, dressed with a simple extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.
Cook the cooked veggies in vegetables oil in a hot skillet and season with sea salt and fresh pepper. Once plated, squeeze fresh lemon juice over them and add a drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Toss the veggies in vegetable oil and grill them for 2 minutes. Then turn them with kitchen tongs and char for 2 more minutes. Serve with a fresh lemon wedge as a side to grilled fish or steak.