Some people absolutely love asparagus. My best friend is one of them: upon starting a new diet she was super excited to learn that those woody little stems are on the approved (even encouraged) foods list, and she started cooking them up in nearly every dish she could think of. I however, am…not a fan. Hahaha. But so many people love this flavorful little vegetable, and this is the absolute perfect time of the year to get great, freshly-grown asparagus. It’s why May is National Asparagus Month!
Native to most of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, asparagus has been cultivated since ancient times, and a recipe for preparing the vegetable even exists in the earliest surviving cookbook from the 3rd century AD. Picked before the shoots ripen (they get harder and less edible when ripe), asparagus can be eaten as the white or green varieties (white asparagus, which is milder in flavor, has been grown without much exposure to the sun) and cooked fresh or pickled to stay for months. They’re a very healthy vegetable, providing tons of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, and is used as a diuretic. An early bird in the vegetable family, the harvesting season for asparagus starts in late April and runs through June–meaning that May is the perfect time to get fresh, delicious asparagus straight from the farmer’s market. Slap on a little hollandaise sauce and those shoots are ready to go!
Of course, anyone can make a poached asparagus with hollandaise sauce–though I am told this is the most popular way to eat the vegetable. It takes a certain level of skill to look past the stalk and really transform the asparagus (and yet still keep its unique flavor). Piccolo Angolo does this in spades with their asparagus ravioli. A special on their menu, the asparagus is pureed when fresh and folded into yummy ravioli pockets. All of this freshness brought to your plate equates to booking a flight straight to Italy and putting your face down in a big bowl of asparagus–but without the woody texture. A definite try for those who love asparagus and love to try something new!
621 Hudson St (between 12th St & Jane St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I just had the best asparagus ravioli I’ve ever had in my life. My boyfriend got us reservations for a pre-Valentine’s dinner (V-day was all booked up) and we were seated almost exactly at our reservation time. The owner is HYSTERICAL- he is all business, no nonsense but obviously loves his restaurant. The waiters and waitresses had a funny banter going that kept the mood lively. Every table was either full or being cleaned for the next party. The food arrived only 10 minutes after we ordered, but apparently 10 minutes is all they need to cook up a bit of heaven.”–Lisa R.
“So finally my friend arrives and we order. I got the lasagna with meat sauce and my friend ordered the asparagus ravioli. We order, and within five minutes the food was on the table. It was hella quick. What I loved about the food was that it was real authentic Italian food. It’s not the type that you’re going to get at Olive Garden. This is the kind that you’re likely to find somewhere in Little Italy. And what I also loved is that whenever a dish came out of the kitchen, many patrons would stop talking to each other and look to see what dish it was. I know the table next to us kept looking at our food.”–Roderick A.
But some people, like my best friend, like both the taste of fresh asparagus as well as the texture: they enjoy the woody stalks, firm when raw but softened to just the right amount of tenderness and crispness when poached or grilled. They get that perfect balance of texture and taste at Yakitori Totto, and make an asparagus dish that even I may be inclined to order. They take their asparagus shoots and cook them while wrapped in bacon–I don’t think asparagus could possibly get any more appetizing than that. The process leaves the asparagus crisp and perfectly charred while the bacon is crispy, meaty, and altogether delicious–exactly how bacon should be. This Japanese yakitori joint (yakitori being the working-class Japanese dish of skewered, barbecued chicken) has a ton of appetizer-like dishes, some of which are served on a skewer stick (like tofu with miso) and some, like the asparagus, are their own stick. A great place to get a few dishes and share them with friends right after work–and if any of them are wary about the asparagus part, just remind them about the bacon and they’ll be on board!
251 W 55th St, 2nd Fl (between Broadway & 8th Ave)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Asparagus bacon ($4) – asparagus wrapped in a slice of bacon. Such a simple skewer but so delicious. The asparagus had a nice crunch, and the bacon added some yummy fatty salty flavors.. On my list to get again.”–Jason P.
“asparagus wrapped in bacon – the other winner of the night. perfect pairing of asparagus pieces snuggled in bacon *fat* really. i normally cringe at the taste of fat, but this was delicious, the salty fat balancing the sweet greens. yum.”–Erica K.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!