’Tis the season for fresh-picked asparagus

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Dan Bolyard/courtesy photo Homemade hollandaise sauce is tricky to make but tasty.

Fresh asparagus is upon us. I was down in Yakima county very recently and I noted fields that were being picked.

Asparagus keeps best in your refrigerator if you stand them in 1/2 inch of water, or wrapped in a damp towel sealed in a plastic bag. The spears should be fine for a day or two.

Wash asparagus carefully but thoroughly. You want to remove any sand and soil that might still be trapped in the heads of the spears.

The larger, woody spears can be rendered more palatable by snapping off the bottom at the natural break point. Take a vegetable peeler and then peel the bottom inch or two to make sure that the tough parts are gone. If I can get a hold of the pencil diameter-sized ones, I won’t peel. A recent trip to the local megamart resulted in expensive thick ones, but they were a bit cheaper if I used a loyalty card.

Hollandaise can be a finicky thing. It can easily break and not turn into a velvety sauce. This is why you can find a powdered version in a packet in the seasonings aisle in that same megamart. It looks to be easy to make, without the fuss of constant whisking or breaking the sauce.

When I made up the asparagus for the picture, what you don’t see was the frying pan with enough water in it to barely cover the stalks. I also had the peeled bottoms in the pan. I cooked the bottoms a bit longer, as they were more even in diameter and I didn’t want them crunchy. The tops would not take as long. I would not let the asparagus sit long before serving, as it can continue to cook with the residual heat and turn olive-green and mushy.

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

3 egg yolks

Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon cold water

1/2 cup butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

In a stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water; the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk rapidly. Don’t let the eggs get too hot or they will coagulate. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat and whisk in salt and pepper. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use.

STIR FRIED BEEF WITH ASPARAGUS AND SNOW PEAS

1 pound lean sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon grated gingerroot

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 green onions cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch lengths

1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into strips

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup snow peas, trimmed

Cut steak into thin strips. Place in a large bowl with sherry, sesame oil, gingerroot and garlic. Let marinate 15 minutes. Heat wok over medium-high heat and add safflower oil. Stir-fry green onions, asparagus, and bell pepper for 2 minutes, then remove to a platter and keep warm in oven. Add steak and marinade to wok and stir-fry for 3 minutes. In a small bowl combine oyster sauce and cornstarch. Add to steak and cook for 1 minute. Add vegetable mixture and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Toss in snow peas, cover wok, and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

ASPARAGUS SALAD

1 1/2 cups fresh, trimmed asparagus

1 cup tomato, seeded, chopped

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons jalapeños, finely chopped

1 5.5-ounce can tomato juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Cut asparagus into small pieces. Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill thoroughly, about 3 hours. Serve cold.

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