When you’re in a CSA, spring is the toughest season. The weather has finally turned, green leaves are appearing everywhere…but mother nature is teasing. There’s nothing for the CSA box yet. It’s too soon.
The first CSA box of spring is kind of sad. Sure, there are a couple of big bags of mixed greens. And turnip greens, and beet greens, and maybe some radishes or green onions. I appreciate them after a winter of storage vegetables. But they rattle around in the bottom of a box that will be overflowing come July.
When is spring really here? When the asparagus appears. Suddenly, I don’t care what else is in the box; the star of spring vegetables has arrived.
Here’s my favorite way to cook asparagus – grilling. (Of course.) I toss the asparagus in a whole grain mustard vinaigrette, both before and after it’s cooked. The grains of mustard cling to the asparagus, and add little bursts of flavor and heat.
Special thanks to Amy, Liz, Nate, Nikki, Hyungmo, and Alysha, my farmers at the Crown Point CSA, for the wonderful asparagus.
Recipe: Grilled Asparagus with Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette
Cooking time: 8 minutes
- Grill (I use my Weber kettle )
- 1 pound asparagus
Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (aka “stone ground mustard”)
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- pinch salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Prep the asparagus
Snap off or trim the tough ends from the asparagus, then put in a baking dish. Whisk the mustard vinaigrette ingredients and pour over the asparagus. Gently toss the spears in the dish until they are coated with vinaigrette.
2. Preheat the grill to medium
Set the grill up for direct medium heat. For my Weber kettle, I set the grill up for medium high heat on half the grill (3/4 chimney full of charcoal, lit, wait until all coals are covered with gray ash, and spread over half the charcoal grate in a tightly packed single layer). Then I brush the grate clean and grill the main course first. By the time the main course is done, the coals will burn down to medium heat, and will be ready to cook the asparagus.
*I recommend the Weber Chimney Starter, because it is larger than most chimney starters. It holds 5 quarts of charcoal, the perfect size for this recipe.
3. Grill the asparagus
Grill the asparagus spears over direct medium heat for about 8 minutes, rolling every two minutes, until the thickest spears are cooked through. Toss in the vinaigrette left in the dish.
Remove the asparagus spears from the vinaigrette, letting any excess drip back into the dish. Put the asparagus on the grill, perpendicular to the grill grate, over direct medium heat. Cook the asparagus, rolling the spears on the grate every couple of minutes and moving them around if there are hot spots.
Cook until the spears are browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. I check the spears two ways. First is the flop test. I pick up a spear with my tongs, and wiggle it up and down. If the spear doesn’t bend, it’s not done yet. If it’s soft and floppy, then I move on to the taste test. I bite into the spear, checking if it is cooked through.
Once the asparagus is done, move it back to the baking dish and toss to coat it with the vinaigrette again. It is good hot or at room temperature, so serve it immediately or let it rest while you finish the rest of dinner.
- The trick to cooking asparagus on the grill is to be gentle, but decisive. Keep the spears perpendicular to the grate, and if you grab some with your tongs, make sure they are flipped all the way over before setting them back down on the grate. But, don’t sweat it too much – I always lose a spear or two through the grate.
- Don’t want to cook a main course first? Set the grill up for medium heat by lighting half a chimney of charcoal, and spreading it into a loose single layer over half the charcoal grate.
- This is actually easier to cook on a gas grill – charcoal burns hotter, and the asparagus is always on the edge of burning. Gas gives you some margin for error. Make sure to cook with the lid closed if you’re using gas.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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