Have a Little Cake with Your Asparagus

Asparagus specials are popping up, but to celebrate 20 years, Bay Weekly serves cake

May is National Asparagus Month.    
    This perennial spring vegetable is one of the first harvests of the season and a favorite on menus. A distant cousin of the lily, asparagus takes some dedication to cultivate, about three years before your first crop. But once it takes, the stalks can grow up to four inches in one day. If your green thumb hasn’t stretched to asparagus, you’ll find the stalky green popping up all over — in farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants.
    Noodles & Company at Westfield Annapolis Mall has launched three new asparagus dishes. Springtime Flatbread is topped with fresh asparagus, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and savory bacon. The Asparagus Stack, an attractive pile of asparagus spears topped with feta, bacon and lemon, is a low-calorie side (110 calories). For an entrée, the new Garden Pesto Sautee highlights asparagus with other fresh veggies, pecans, feta and spinach tossed in pesto sauce. The dish is available with a gluten-free corn-and-rice fusilli noodle imported from Italy. Try all three while you can: Asparagus season ends in June, as do these seasonal specials.
    Chef Zachary Pope of Roundz Gourmet Market in Gambrills shares his tips on blanching asparagus.
    If you are purchasing your asparagus, it is most likely bound by rubber bands. Keep the band on the bundle and rinse under running water. Remove the woody root portion of the spear. To determine where to cut the stalks, remove one spear from the bundle and hold the tip end in one hand and the stalk end in the other. Gently bend the stalk until it snaps. That break shows you where the woody root meets the tender portion. Discard the stalk end, and use the spear as a template to cut the remaining spears, usually two or three inches off the base. Prepare a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Place your bundle in the boiling water with tongs. The asparagus will turn bright green in less than a minute. Remove with tongs and drain on a paper towel. Remove rubber band and serve.
    The Main Ingredient Café in Annapolis is also celebrating asparagus with a special entrée of grilled shrimp with corn, crab, bacon, sherry and cream served over cheddar grit polenta and fresh asparagus.
    On the sweeter side, The Main Ingredient is crafting Bay Weekly’s 20th birthday cake. Come by our office April 25, 10am to 4pm, to enjoy a slice of the strawberry shortcake with butter-cream icing.

Got a tasty tip for next week’s Dish? Email Lisa Knoll at thedish@bayweekly.com.