- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Asparagus used to be the symbol of spring, back in the day when all produce was local, and by its very definition, available only in-season.

We could plan our vernal equinox welcoming party — practically to the minute — by the appearance of asparagus in our garden or produce department.

To me, asparagus was — and remains — a mysterious, exotic and beautifully aloof edible thing. Even its shade of green is singular and hard to define. (Hard to capture on canvas or paper in paint or pastel, too. I know — I’ve tried.)

Now, in this modern era that brings us the year-round temptation of opposite-season fruits and vegetables from the Southern Hemisphere (and usually at a price), asparagus-with-a-passport is available most of the year.

I prefer to look back to the time when this subtle vegetable was a delicacy relegated to March, April and maybe the first week of May. It is in that spirit that I share this favorite recipe of mine at this shining time of year.

This is based on one of the first vegetable recipes I ever dreamed up, back when I was a teenager: An ode to the A-most of the A-list vegetables — and it’s easy.

Asparagus in dilled mustard sauce

1 pound fresh, crisp asparagus (any thickness)

Water

1 cup plain yogurt (can be part sour cream)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra small sprigs of dill or chive blossoms for garnish (optional)

Snap off and discard the tough bottom ends of the asparagus.

Steam the asparagus over simmering water until just tender.

Remove from heat, and immediately refresh under very cold running water. Drain thoroughly, and then dry with a towel.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt (and perhaps some sour cream), mayonnaise, mustard and herbs, whisking until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the room temperature asparagus on a large plate, or on individual serving plates.

Generously spoon the sauce over the centers of the spears, and garnish with small sprigs of dill or the pretty purple blossoms that, if you were lucky, were attached to your chives. Makes 4 servings.

Mollie Katzen is the author of the “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). To contact her, go to www.molliekatzen.com.

Tribune Media Services

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