Asparagus tacos with salsa verde

2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center’s farmers market. I still remember the day the market opened, with the trees lining Howe Street in full blossom and the crowds gathering. My father, Dr. Preston Maring, started this market with the goal of bringing “produce to the people” — the wonderful patients and employees of the Oakland Medical Center and the members of the surrounding community. He then helped the idea spread around the country to countless other Kaiser Permanente facilities and beyond. The Oakland Medical Center’s farmers market kicks off each Spring. Organic produce is in full effect, including a spring favorite, asparagus. The freshest asparagus are a vibrant green and have tips that are compact and firm.

Servings: 8 (1 taco per serving)

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 4 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and quartered
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 to 1 serrano chile, stemmed
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, leaves and stems, additional leaves for garnish
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
  • 8 tortillas

Directions

  1. Prepare the asparagus: Bend each stalk gently near the fibrous end and allow it to snap at its natural breaking point. Reserve the fibrous parts for asparagus soup or vegetable stock. Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Pickle the onions: Slice the red onion thinly with the “grain” (slice along those lines on a peeled onion, which helps the onion retain its shape and texture) and submerge in red wine vinegar. Drain before using, saving the vinegar for a homemade vinaigrette.
  3. Make the salsa verde: Use a blender to puree the tomatillos, onion, garlic, cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (add serrano to taste). Puree until smooth. This makes enough sauce for 20 tacos, so you will have leftovers.
  4. Cook the asparagus: You have many options here. For a slightly lower-fat, brighter-flavored asparagus, bring an inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus pieces, season lightly with salt, cover, and let cook for 3 minutes for medium thickness stalks; 1 to 2 minutes for pencil-thin stalks; 4 to 5 minutes for jumbo stalks. Drain the cooking liquid and serve. For a more roasted, deeper flavor, toss the asparagus pieces with the olive oil and roast for 8 minutes in a 475-degree oven, or cook in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
  5. Assemble the tacos: Heat your favorite tortilla and top with asparagus, a little pickled red onion, a spoonful of salsa verde, and a few cilantro leaves.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 135
  • Carbohydrates: 17 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Total fat: 6 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 397 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Contributor

Benjamin Maring, MD