Friday, February 10, 2012

Asparagus In Ghee

Spring Has Sprung - the “asparaguys” arrived!

Ahhh Spring! Asparagus and lamb - does it get better?

Asparagus In Ghee, such a simple recipe. Three ingredients – four if you add black pepper, five minutes, and bam, color you done. In return, your family will give awards and gifts for being such a swell cook. And you will fall in love with asparagus.

Asparagus, those crunchy, green stalks that herald spring, bring comfort. As one of the first vegetables out of the ground and to market in the spring, asparagus brings
 hope. Hope that winter departed. Hope that sunnier times beckon. Asparagus send messages that robins and red bud blossoms loom in our future again and that winter gloom fades. Asparagus means spring has sprung.

Ghee is butter but better! You can make it yourself. Go ahead. Tell me how it went. Or like me, you can be slothful and buy organic ghee made from grass fed cow’s milk at your local health food store. Although dead easy to make, trust me, it’s way easier to buy ghee, especially considering that the ghee in this recipe comes from grass fed animals and most store bought butter comes from high production, grain fed cows.

In many high production dairies, cows receive bovine growth hormone, rBGH, a no-no component that shows up in the milk of cows fed rBGH. rBGH by any other name is estrogen and it’s an ingredient to avoid when you have a hormone positive cancer, plus it’s just generally bad for anyone, anywhere, any age near or far. Just don’t eat dairy from cows fed with rBGH. Ever! But it’s not that easy since the FDA does not require dairies to declare the presence of rBGH in their products.

Organic ghee usually means rBGH free, grass fed and high nutrient content butter. Butter from grass fed cows carry a higher concentration of many vitamins, namely Vitamins A, D and K2, a metabolite of Vitamin K helpful in regulating the metabolism of Vitamins A & D and directing the vitamins to the right places in the body. Vitamin K2 makes sure Vitamin D behaves and helps build strong bones instead of strong, calcium-laden arteries and soft tissues. Grass fed, organic ghee is also high in CLA, a precursor to the fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA help fight inflammation.

Just a little ghee travels miles on the Flavortown Express. Ghee is clarified butter or butter separated from its milk solids. Water evaporates out of it while cooking. Consequently, ghee has a concentrated, nutty, complex flavor. Ghee reminds me of all the reasons I loved Mom’s Asparagus in Black Butter when I was growing up. It has that same brown note without appearing brown. And is much better for me!

Mom used to make this asparagus dish we all adored. Well, most of us. Our brother, the veggie hater, gagged over this dish too. But then, he hated most things green at that time. Mom would sometimes splurge and buy a couple of cans of asparagus and warm them up in black butter. Black butter is butter allowed to brown or “blacken” until caramel and brown flavors develop. You don’t allow the butter to burn, so it’s a fine line between black and BLACK. Donchaknow.

I am a child of the ‘60s. Like many Houstonians born during that era, we thought Parmesan was a type of cheese that grew in a green can. We called it “Par-meeeee-seeeee-an” cheese in my family. For years and years. We also thought vegetables grew in cans or convenient freezer bags. The concept of fresh, local produce was limited to include fresh iceberg lettuce, green bell peppers, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and maybe, just maybe, a little curly parsley. I was ten before I ever met my friend, the fresh asparagus. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

If you’ve ever eaten canned asparagus, you know that crisp never made it to the station by the time the Flavortown Express departed. Canned asparagus are pale doppelgangers for fresh, green asparagus. They look and taste like mushy, stringy hoaxes – cruel jokes. You think it’s gonna taste like asparagus – it sure looks like asparagus. But somewhere, someone introduced a baby diaper to the equation and things did not go well for the asparagus from that point forward. But dang! Houston in the ‘60s, canned asparagus and black butter = treat! What did I know? I was six.

Today my tastes are oh so fancy schmancy Nancypantsy. No longer satisfied by the taste of canned asparagus in black butter, I must have fresh, glistening stalks served al dente (to the tooth – meaning just this side of done). I want them to hold up to my bite and yes, maybe bite me back just a little. Instead of blackened butter, I found this lovely organic, grass fed ghee. Mom’s recipe gets a facelift. Heaven waits and I’m a happy camper.

Asparagus In Ghee

Asparagus In Ghee - a simple spring time side dish.

Serves 3-4
Serving Size - 3oz (8-10 stalks depending on stalk size)
Prep Time – 2 Minutes
Cook Time – 3.5 Minutes             
Difficulty –  Easy. Can you boil water?

1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus
1 Tbsp Organic Ghee
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Fresh Herbs (optional)


In large pan, bring filtered water to a simmer, a slow, gentle boil. Add 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt to the water. Wash and cuts ends off of asparagus and place into simmering water.

Simmer asparagus for 3 minutes. Use a timer for this! Don’t exceed the 3 minutes or the baby diaper taste will appear and you will be unhappy!

Remove asparagus from hot water and immediately place them into an ice water bath. This is known as shocking. You shock something to stop the cooking process. Shocking produces bright green stems and preserves the Vitamins in the asparagus. It also keeps them al dente.

Once the asparagus are cool – about 30 seconds to a minute – remove them from the ice water and place on a clean towel. Allow them to drain and dry before storing. If you leave them in the water bath for too long they will become soggy and lose their freshness.

You can cook the asparagus ahead of serving time up to this step. Be sure to cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

When you are ready to serve, add ghee to sauté pan and let it melt. Add asparagus to the pan and toss with ghee, being sure to coat each spear.

Season with salt and pepper and any fresh herbs you have on hand and serve! But truthfully, salt and pepper are the only things you need with the asparagus and ghee.

SusieT’s Notes:
Asparagus In Ghee is one of my favorite veggie dishes. It pairs well with so many proteins and works great with every meal – breakfast to dinner. It tastes especially wonderful with fluffy, scrambled eggs with tarragon or herbed quiche. For dinner, we love Asparagus In Ghee with steaks, but come on, who wouldn’t? Anything goes great with steak! We also love it with chicken, fish and lamb.

You can add to the flavor profile of Asparagus In Ghee by adding a tablespoon of fresh herbs. Tarragon or thyme work well for this purpose – so does summer savory or flat leaf parsley. Lemon zest also adds a nice variation!

Nutritional Information:

Nutritional Label – Full Recipe

Nutrition Label – Single Serving

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