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When asparagus appears on a menu, generally its been cooked in some way. And that’s not surprising. Asparagus is a fibrous vegetable that benefits from the tenderizing effects of cooking. But that doesn’t mean asparagus can’t grace your plate in its raw form. In fact, its natural sweetness is more pronounced and it has a surprising crunch that adds lovely bit of contrast to every dish it touches. But raw asparagus must be handled in a certain way to guarantee a positive eating experience. So we’ve compiled a few tips on serving asparagus raw and included a Asparagus and Shrimp Caesar Salad recipe to get you started.

Choose your Moment

The best time to eat raw asparagus dishes is when local asparagus is in its prime time. And when eating it raw, fresh asparagus is best. So try to select bunches that are at their peak. You can identify a quality bunch by looking first at their tips. If the flower is tightly closed that is a good indicator of freshness. It’s also important to select spears that are relatively uniform in colour with minimal streaking and/or fading. Pay attention to the stems texture as well. The skin should be taut and smooth. If it appears at all shriveled you’ll likely dealing with asparagus that has been hanging around for a while.

Maintain Freshness

Once you’ve found the asparagus of your dreams, it’s best to use it right away. But if that’s not a possibility, you can store your asparagus in a glass of water that is tall enough to support the stems. Simply trim the ends and place them in the glass as you would fresh cut flowers. Asparagus is a member of the lily family afterall. Store the asparagus in 2-3 inches of water and place a plastic bag on top. The asparagus will stay fresh for up to 3 days like this.

Prep your Veg

As with all vegetables, the first thing you want to do is give your asparagus  a good rinse in cold, clean water. Then remove the woody ends. All very normal behaviour when preparing asparagus. But here is where it get’s interesting. Remove the tip. Asparagus tips are naturally very tender and easy to chew, so you can leave those whole. Plus, they add a lot of visual interest to any dish.

Slice it Thin

Now, for the stems. Asparagus is traditionally cooked because the stems, even the tender portions, tend to be fibrous and a little difficult to chew. But we can navigate past this potential drawback by slicing the asparagus nice and thin. You can achieve this by either using a mandolin, a vegetable peeler, or a sharp chef’s knife. Whichever tool you choose, try to slice your asparagus to a uniform thickness. This could be a series of thin medallions or ribbons, like the ones you see in the Asparagus and Shrimp Caesar Salad below. Once your asparagus is sliced nice and thin, season and dress it as you would your favorite salad and dig in.

Asparagus and Shrimp Caesar Salad
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Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • Caesar Dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup neutral oil, I used canola
  • 1/4 cup Grana Padano, shredded
  • Cajun Shrimp:
  • 300g shrimp, shells removed, tails-on
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cajun seasoning
  • 1 bunch Ontario-grown asparagus, ends removed
  • 1 head romaine, coarsely chopped
  • ½ radicchio, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup croutons, storebought or homemade

Instructions

  1. For the Dressing:
  2. Place the garlic and anchovy fillets in a medium-sized bowl. Add the salt, and using a fork, mash the anchovy into the garlic to form a paste. Add the egg yolk, mustard, and half of the lemon juice and whisk to combine.
  3. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and neutral oil until a smooth, creamy emulsion forms. Whisk in the last of the lemon juice. Fold in the Grana Padano and transfer it to a jar. Chill until ready to use.
  4. For the Shrimp:
  5. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet until melted and frothy. Add the garlic, shrimp, and cajun seasoning. Saute until the shrimp is firm and pink. Take the pan off of the heat and set aside.
  6. For the Salad:
  7. Trim the tips of the asparagus and set them aside. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the stems into ribbons. Place the ribbons and tips in a large bowl. Add the romaine and radicchio and pour the dressing over top. Toss to coat.
  8. Transfer the greens to a large platter and top with the shrimp, croutons, and additional Grana Padano. Serve immediately.
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https://producemadesimple.ca/how-to-serve-ontario-grown-asparagus-raw/

Written by Susan of Rhubarb and Cod

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