The first long weekend of the ‘summer’ generally heralds a number of openings — the cottage, Farmers’ Markets, firing up the grill and the sightings of the first vegetable of season, asparagus.

In a survey conducted in February for Weber-Stephen Products Company to determine consumer trends, 68 per cent of Canadians said they prefer grilling in the summer while 32 per cent report grilling year-round.

Asparagus and Prosciutto with Lemon Vinaigrette
Asparagus season is short, usually just four to six weeks, depending on weather and locale, so grill some up soon. This recipe, from a terrific cookbook Weber’s Way to Grill, the Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling by Jamie Purviance, would be good with grilled chicken, salmon or pork. Makes 4 servings.

• 2 tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely diced shallot
• 2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon zest
• 1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 tsp (1 ml) each: kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1½ lbs (750 g) asparagus (about 1-1/2 bunches)
• 1/2 tsp (2 ml) kosher salt
• 4 thin slices prosciutto

Preheat barbecue to medium heat.

In small bowl, whisk vinegar, shallot, lemon zest, and mustard. Slowly whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Wash asparagus well, snap off ends. Drizzle asparagus with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and season evenly with salt.

Grill asparagus and the prosciutto over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the asparagus is tender and the prosciutto is crisp, turning once or twice, 6 to 8 minutes for the asparagus and 1 to 2 minutes for the prosciutto. Arrange asparagus on a platter, spoon on remaining vinaigrette, and crumble the crispy prosciutto on top.

This recipe comes from Weber’s Way to Grill. ©2008 Weber-Stephen Products Co. Recipe from Weber’s Way to Grill™ by Jamie Purviance. Used with permission.

• The fresher the better, asparagus is best cooked the day you buy it. To store any longer, cut 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so off the ends and wrap the ends in wet paper towel and store in plastic bag; or store like flowers, upright in 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water in a container and cover with plastic.

• Roasting and grilling concentrate the flavour of most foods, particularly vegetables that are often cooked in water, such as asparagus. Toss in a little oil, season to taste and grill until tender-crisp but bright green. For doneness, go by looks and texture rather than time.

• Good for you — asparagus is high in folate, a source of vitamin C and A, iron, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine and riboflavin. Low in calories, each spear has about 8 calories.

Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.

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