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What’s for dinner? Fresh asparagus signals start of spring

By Bill Daley
Chicago Tribune

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Spring, for me, isn’t sprung on the say-so of meteor­ologists or a calendar date but on the sudden, dramatic appearance in the neighborhood supermarket of a truckload of fresh asparagus shipped in from somewhere. For a moment I forget the local-seasonal mantra and think instead of what to do with those fresh, green spears.

A simple stir-fry is the answer.

Asparagus is the star of this dish. Red bell pepper adds contrast. Go with the protein of your choice: beef, chicken, shrimp, extra-firm tofu or, as here, boneless pork chops. Serve with steamed white or brown rice and, perhaps, an after-dinner bowl of green tea ice cream in keeping with that spring color scheme.

Roll-cutting the asparagus is a simple technique to add eye appeal and enhance the vegetable’s mouth feel. Lay a spear on the cutting board and make a diagonal cut. Roll the spear one-quarter turn and make another diagonal cut. Keep turning and slicing until the spear is chopped up.

ASPARAGUS STIR-FRY

1 lb. boneless pork cutlets, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch strips

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more if needed

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 piece (1 inch long) fresh ginger, peeled, minced

1 bunch green onions, trimmed, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, roll-cut into 1½-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1½ inches long

1 tbsp. chili sauce, or more to taste

Marinate the pork in the soy sauce in a small bowl, about 20 minutes.

Heat wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When metal is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water on contact, pour in the oil. Move the wok or skillet to coat the entire surface with oil. Stir in the garlic, ginger and green onions; stir-fry until fragrant. Add asparagus spears; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes. Add red pepper strips; stir-fry 2-3 minutes. (At this point, the asparagus should be cooked but crisp-crunchy). Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Add more oil to the wok or skillet if necessary. Turn out pork strips and marinade into the pan; stir-fry until the meat turns white and is almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Lower heat; return vegetables to the wok. Season with chili sauce. Stir-fry for a minute or so to combine flavors. Serve with steamed rice.

Makes 2 servings.

Note: To save time, prep all the vegetables while the pork marinates.


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