Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sesame-Marinated Asparagus

Sacrilegious as it is, I have never been fond of asparagus. The rest of my family loves it, so many a special family dinner had asparagus front and center. Sigh. The first time I can remember liking it was when I was in the UK and my host dad came home with a bag of it fresh from a farm and they steamed it lightly and we ate it by the stalk with no adornment. My suspicion is that the freshness mitigated that very special asparagus tang or funk that I've never enjoyed. The second time I found myself liking it was when my mother-in-law brought this sesame marinated asparagus to family dinner. I always take a stalk or two when it is offered both as politeness to the contributor of the dish and also to make sure that I still don't like it all that much. Lo and behold, I took seconds. The sesame and rice vinegar marinade is so simple and satisfying. My asparagus did turn a bit yellow after sitting overnight in the fridge so I'm not sure if I did something wrong or that's just how it goes. We all still ate it happily, however.
The original recipe calls for seasoned rice vinegar, which we never have around. We always have plain rice vinegar and mirin, however, so I did half and half of each of those instead. If you find you're out of sesame seeds, I'm sure the dish will be edible without them. Taste the marinade carefully before adding to the asparagus and adjust it to your flavor profile preference. We use a mirin with no added sugar, which will make a very different dish than with a sweeter mirin.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb asparagus, washed and trimmed--I like to soak the asparagus to really dislodge any grit
2 TBSP plain rice vinegar
2 TBSP mirin
OR use 1/4 c seasoned rice vinegar
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a wide frying pan or skillet
  2. Add asparagus, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes until it is your desired tenderness
  3. Plunge the asparagus in an ice and water bath until fully cool (a few minutes)
  4. Drain and then place asparagus in your serving bowl/dish
  5. Pour over the dressing and stir gently
  6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds when ready to serve

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