Fresh asparagus in a stirfry signals start of spring

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. Play up that green color with strips of red bell pepper for contrast. Go with the protein of your choice: beef, chicken, shrimp, extra-firm tofu or, as here, boneless pork chops. Serve the stir-fry 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 asparagus spear is chopped up. Some people prefer to trim and peel the butt ends of the spears. I grew up snapping them off. Save ends for stock or soup.

Any leftover stir-fry and rice can be turned into fried rice for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

Asparagus stir-fry

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

1 pound boneless pork cutlets, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons 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 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1 1/2 inches long

1 tablespoon 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; set aside.

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

Nutrition information per serving: 497 calories, 29 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 43 g protein, 1,527 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

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