I went to a dinner party once where the centrepiece on the table was six asparagus spears sticking out of six long, narrow jars all in a row.
What's wrong with that? Plenty. It's dinner, not a game of skittles. I tend to limit my centrepieces to candles or flowers. Call me boring. I've seen pears sitting on flat rocks, miniature hedges of pampas grass that caught alight when someone lit a match, shiny black stones in a clear glass jar like a caveman showing off his life savings, tabletop water features that bubble away all night and giant flat dishes full of water with candles that float around like gambling boats in the bay, all lit up.
But I remember the asparagus spears the most because five of them wilted and the sixth was eaten by a guest.
So don't so that with your asparagus. Do this:
1. Steamed and simply served on a plate with poached duck eggs, shavings of finest parmigiano and a light shower of freshly cracked pepper.
2. Summer party entree: very lightly steamed asparagus on a serving platter along with thin slices of carrot, red pepper, blanched green beans, florets of broccoli and your choice of something in which to dip them - hommous, babaganooge, that kind of thing. I prefer something tangy, a good mayonnaise or thousand island dressing is just fine.
3. With pasta: chop into one inch lengths and steam with snow peas. Meanwhile, lightly poach a chicken breast in some white wine and garlic. When done, cube and toss with cooked pasta and vegetables. It's fine just like that with some grated cheese over the top or: toss it all with pesto or a little cream.
4. Serve with hollandaise sauce.
5. Cold asparagus soup. Serve with a good champagne late on a summer night.
6. Barbecue, barbecue, barbecue. Throw them on the grill alongside capsicum, eggplant, strips of zucchini and then make up a big barbecued vegetable platter to balance out the snags and chops. Or omit the snags and chops altogether. I do. Crumble some good fetta over the vegetables, dress with good oil and lemon juice and watch them come back for more.
Strange asparagus facts:
A. 84% of the Australian asparagus crop is grown the State of Victoria. Of this, only 22% is consumed there. Victorians are not eating enough asparagus.
B. Asparagus can grow 2 centimetres in an hour. Thank goodness it stops at about 10 centimetres or Victoria would be an asparagus forest.