Asparagus and Artichoke/ Spring has Sprung Recipes

Every spring as I start to approach that dreaded day, (no, not April 15 or the last day of school for my kids) where I have to make the decision as to whither or not to actually purchase that new swim suit I’ve been trying to avoid for the past 3 years (deciding to actually put it on and then go outside in it is another column relating to nervous breakdowns).
I look back at all the candy bar breakfasts, french fry and or pizza lunches, and milk shake and corn chip dinners that I snarfed my way through this last winter and I think, “WAS I OUT OF MY MIND?!?”
I know, that unlike my sister Lois, who’s mottos is “I never met a swim suit I liked (or who liked me)” and “Control Top forever” that I’ll inevitably get into that “Oh yeah, it’s spring, I’d better start eating right, diet” mind set.
This isn’t actually that much of a hardship as it might appear to be. Right now, I know that the 2 vegetables that I love the most but ignore most of the year because they’re SOOOOOO expensive can be mine at bargain prices (rain, floods and other natural disasters inCalifornia not with standing). Every produce section I’ve visited in the last few weeks has been full to overflowing with my produce pals the Artichoke and Asparagus.

For inquiring minds the artichoke is a native of theMediterranean. It’s also a perennial in the thistle group of the sunflower (Compositae) family. The “vegetable” that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. The Asparagus is a member of the Lily family and its spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils.

When choosing an artichoke it should look compact, (not necessarily small) plump, have the leaves tightly packed and have an even green color overall. The asparagus should have firm stems, tight closed leaves at the end and should be a bright green. (If you’re lucky enough to find the white variety of asparagus grab it quickly. It’s very difficult to find in the United States. It may cost a small fortune but once you taste it you’ll be forever hooked.

BASIC COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
If the asparagus is more than 1/4 inch thick, peel it if you like. Snap or trim the bottom base off (about 1 inch from the bottom) and rinse. Gently steam or boil the asparagus until it’s crisp tender. Serve immediately if you wish to serve it hot. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process if you wish to serve it cold. You can also roast it with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Serve it crisp tender, hot, warm or room temperature.
Rinse the artichoke. Cut off the tip of each large leaf. Then cut off the top 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the artichoke with a sharp knife. Cut off the bottom 1/2 inch of the stem. Boil or steam the artichokes in a covered pot. Cook 30 to 40 minutes at a rolling boil or until the outer leaves pull away easily. Remove from heat and serve either hot or cold with butter or other sauces for dipping. To eat. Pull off the leaves, dip the meaty bottom part of the leaf in the dipping sauce and bite off. You can remove all the leaves and just eat the bottom or heart of the artichoke. You must however remove the top part of the  heart (small bitter leaves and filaments in the center) before you can eat the bottom portion. Fresh artichoke taste wonderful, however if you need to use a large amount for a recipe the canned or frozen variety work almost as well.

 

Now is the time to grab these first offerings of spring and go for the gusto.

SESAME ASPARAGUS
1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into thirds
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted*

Cook asparagus in a large pot or frying pan of boiling water till crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water.  Drain well.

Heat vegetable oil in  a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bell pepper and stir 1 minute.  Add asparagus and sauté till heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Toss till asparagus and bell pepper are coated.  Transfer to platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

* To toast sesame seeds, place them in a toaster oven on a metal pan and toast 1-2 cycles, till lightly browned and popping.  Alternatively, place in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, till lightly browned and popping. Serves 4.

 

FETTUCCINI WITH SMOKED SALMON AND ASPARAGUS

8- to 9-oz dried egg fettuccine
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon drained bottled horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
6 to 8 oz smoked salmon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions. Add asparagus to pot for last 3 minutes of pasta-cooking time.
While asparagus is boiling, heat cream, horseradish, and dill in a large skillet over moderate heat just until hot, about 1 minute. Drain pasta and asparagus and add to cream mixture, tossing. Gently toss in salmon and season with salt and pepper. Serves 6

For a lighter sauce, you can replace 1/3 cup of the cream with an equal amount of the pasta-cooking water

From  Epicurious.com

ASPARAGUS PASTA SALAD

4 ounces uncooked pasta, bow tie style
1/2 half pound of asparagus spears, cut up, steamed crisp tender
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 teaspoons chopped green onions
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Herb Vinaigrette
salad greens
4 hard cooked eggs cut into quarters

 

Vinaigrette:

2/3 cup wine vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in cold water and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the pasta, asparagus, carrot, green onions and cheeses. Add the dressing and toss lightly. Spoon onto salad greens and garnish with egg quarters.  Serves 8.

 

For the vinaigrette: combine all the ingredients in a jar with lid and shake well. Makes 1 1/3 cups

SMOKED WHITE FISH AND ASPARAGUS SALAD

12 new potatoes cut in half or quarters depending on their size
1 pound asparagus, cooked crisp tender and cooled and cut in 1/3’s
1 pound smoked white fish, broken into small pieces
1 head shredded red leaf lettuce
4 to 5 hard cooked eggs
2 to 3 tomato cut into wedges
2/3 cup tarragon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leave
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside.   Combine the vinegar, oil tarragon, bay leaf, garlic and salt and pepper in a jar with a lid and shake well. While the potatoes are still slightly warm slice them and arrange them in the bottom of a shallow dish. Add the asparagus. Remove the bay leaf from the dressing and drizzle 1/4 of the dressing over the asparagus and potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. To serve place the lettuce on the serving plate and arrange the marinated vegetables on top. Then place the white fish chunks, tomatoes wedges and egg wedges on the top. Drizzle the remaining dressing on the top. Serves 8

ORANGEAND ARTICHOKE SALAD

6  cooked artichoke hearts
1/2 tablespoon margarine
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 oranges, peeled, and segmented
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
salad greens
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Saute the garlic in the margarine and place in a small bowl. Cut the hearts into quarters and set aside. Add the oil, orange juice, grated orange rind and the lemon juice to the garlic. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the orange segments and the artichoke hearts in a large bowl and drizzle the sauce over. Let set for at least 1 hour. To serve: arrange the artichoke and oranges on the salad greens and sprinkle with the parsley. Serves 4. This can be doubled.

TICKLISH ARTICHOKES
10 artichoke hearts, uncooked and halved
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Soak the artichoke hearts in the lemon juice, salt and water for approx 1 hour. Pour them and the liquid in which they were steeped in a pot with the oil, garlic, and sugar. Simmer gently until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the artichokes to a serving dish. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch and pour over the hearts. Cool sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley and serve cold as a side dish. Serves 4 this can be doubled.

 

BABY ARTICHOKE CHICKEN SAUTE

 

16 baby artichokes

1/4 cup olive oil

4 half chicken breasts, skinned, boned and cut into chunks

2 red or yellow onions, sliced thick

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil and rosemary or 1 teaspoon each dried

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 pound fettuccine, cooked and drained

Prepare artichokes as directed (see Basic Preparation); cut into halves. Brown chicken in large skillet with 2 tablespoons oil.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and saute the onions until tender. Add the artichokes to the skillet with garlic, basil and rosemary. Cook until artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in browned chicken and drizzle with chicken broth; heat thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve over hot fettuccine. Makes 4 servings. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Sundress Chef
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 23:47:47

    Artichokes are one of my favorites – thanks for showing so many different recipes and how versatile artichokes can be!

    Reply

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