Fresh asparagus spears signal start of spring

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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 your protein of 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.

Asparagus Stir-Fry

Prep: 20 minutes’ Cook: 15 minutes; Makes: 2 servings

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

1 pound boneless pork cutlets, trimmed, cut into 1½-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 1½-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1½ inches long

1 tablespoon chili sauce

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. 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.

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