Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

Spring is finally here! At least, in my neck of the woods. Soon - in about a month - the first crops of the season will come rolling in. And that means asparagus!

Clearly, I could not wait for this and purchased some imported-from-Mexico asparagus for this week. What can I say? It's hard to be a locavore in March. I'll more than make up for it this summer, between the ambitious garden I'm planning and the CSA I've joined.

I'm a big fan of asparagus. I love biting into the crisp-tender stalks. Just looking at these pictures makes me feel healthy. My biggest problem with it has always been the waste - when I snap off the ends, sometimes half the stalk comes off! I am not convinced that all of this is too woody to eat, and I generally work hard to ensure the stem breaks in a place that I find reasonable. This time, though, I had no worries - I am no longer throwing away (or even composting) the stems - they're going into my stock bag.

I started making my own vegetable stock earlier this year, and it's awesome. I've been using it in recipes in place of any store-bought vegetable or chicken stock. I've found that buying stock can be expensive and wasteful - once a container is open it should be used in 7-10 days. Now, I've definitely used leftover stock after 10 days, but there's a limit. Many times I've found an old half-used container of chicken stock in the back of the fridge that I had to throw out (old chicken stock tastes like old chicken - not good). By making my own stock, I avoid wasting food, I avoid wasteful packaging materials, and I reprocess waste into something I need (and my composter is still fed, since I still have other kitchen scraps). I simply freeze the stock into useful amounts (some in ice cube trays, some in one- or two-cup blocks), remove the cubes to a big freezer bag and remove them as needed. Making stock this way is easy (although the freezing part admittedly is a bit of work and can make a mess if you're sloppy like me). However, I think the result is worth it. If you want to try your own homemade stock, I've been following the directions here. I've only used vegetables so far, since I don't fancy the idea of saving animal bones in my freezer.

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lime up your asparagus on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan (these ingredients can also be tossed together in a large bowl, for slightly better coverage). Roast about 5 minutes, until tender.

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