All Hail Asparagus, Spring is just around the corner

  So I walk into the produce section of my favorite green grocer and what do I spy? Why asparagus at .99 a pound. Are they kidding me? .99 a pound? Sign me up and shut the door, I’m all in for this special. As if in a daze my cart magically makes its way over to the stand and I find myself loading bundle after bundle of that sweet stalk of green goodness into my cart.

By the time I get out of my chlorophyll induced stupor I’m in my kitchen, the proud owner of 10 pounds of the stuff and no real plan on how to use it up before it starts to wilt. My plan, take a deep breath, do a little recipe research and cook up a storm.

Asparagus is one of Mother Nature’s finest gifts and is a sure sign that spring has sprung. It’s a part of the lily family and is sort of a first cousin to onions, leeks and garlic. Loaded with vitamins A, B and C it’s also a great source for folic acid, it’s at its best from May through June so now is the best time to stock up and chow down. It is a very versatile vegetable that can be prepared by steaming, roasting, grilling or even stir frying it. The spears should be firm and green with tightly closed firm tips. Choose thin or thick stalks is just a matter of personal preference, I don’t really taste a difference between the two. Pass up asparagus with thick woody looking stalks.  I don’t peel the stalks but I do cut off about 1/2 inch of the ends before cooking.

If you’d like a little variety in your life look for white or purple asparagus. They’re the same as the green variety they’ve just been grown differently; the white is grown like some mushrooms, without light so it doesn’t produce chlorophyll. You will find that the white asparagus is a tad bit sweeter but so is the price point. The purple is pretty but it does loose most of its purple color when cooked.

I’ve started cooking and don’t plan on stopping until the last stalk is devoured and invite you to do the same with these terrific recipes

 

GRILLED ASPARAGUS MOCK CRAB TART (dairy)

1lb. asparagus, cut into 1/3’s and grilled slightly

1/4 cup butter or margarine

4 to 5 portabella mushrooms chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup bread crumbs

3 tablespoon parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cups shredded Munster or pepper jack cheese

1/2 lb mock crab shredded or chopped

8 ounces vegetable cream cheese

4 eggs

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 13×9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In a skillet melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently for about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and garlic from the heat and add the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.  Mix to combine and then press mushroom mixture evenly in bottom and up side of greased pan. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the mushroom crust. Place the asparagus and mock crab on top of the cheese. In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the cream cheese, eggs and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Beat to combine and so that there are no lumps. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus and crabmeat. Sprinkle the top with the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes then serve. Serves 8.

Modified from about.com

 

PUFFED ASPARAGUS AND LOX BITES (dairy)

1 lb fresh asparagus ends cut off, steamed till just crisp tender

1 package puff pastry dough (2 sheets), defrosted

1 cup shredded pepper jack or Swiss cheese

1/4 lb lox, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Open puff pastry dough and cut each sheet into 1/3’s. Then cut each strip into 1/3’s. Roll each section out slightly so they form rectangles. On each section, lengthwise, place a few stalks of cooked asparagus on one edge, sprinkle some cheese, lox and green onions on top of the asparagus and then roll them up. Place the rolls, seam side down on the cookie sheet. Brush the top of each roll with the melted butter and sprinkle the top with a few sesame seeds. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until roll ups are golden browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Cut each roll in half and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

ASPARAGUS POPOVERS (dairy)

1 lb asparagus

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pinch sugar

3 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425. In a medium saucepan, add 2 inched of salted water; bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut the spears crosswise into thirds. In a medium cast-iron skillet, add the butter. Place the skillet in the oven to melt the butter. In a medium bowl, microwave the milk on high for 30 seconds. Whisk in the eggs, then the flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add the asparagus pieces to the hot cast-iron skillet and pour the batter on top. Sprinkle with half of the cheese and bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese. Recipe makes 24 pieces

From the May 2008 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray

ASPARAGUS TID BITS (dairy)

1 lb asparagus cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 lb smoked white fish, broken into bite size pieces

12 oz gruyere cheese, sliced

1 loaf French bread, sliced in to 1/2-inch slices

1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

kosher salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Saute the asparagus in the olive oil until it’s just soft and set it aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the slices of French bread with olive oil. Place the oiled pieces, oil side up on the parchment paper, season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Place a small piece of white fish on top of the toasted French bread, then put two to three pieces of asparagus, and top with one small slice of gruyere, Grind a little pepper on top, return to the oven for 2 minutes or just until the cheese melts. Serve immediately. Makes 12 to 14 pieces.

ASPARAGUS STRATA (dairy)

You can vary the amount of cheese according to your taste

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces

2 carrots shredded

1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (for sauce)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and pepper

6 large par boiled lasagna noodles

1 to 1 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 to 1 cup grated Romano cheese

1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Place the asparagus and shredded carrots on a cookie sheet with sides and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes until they just begin to soften. Cool slightly and set them aside. In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the flour and whisk briskly and constantly until it’s combined. Cook for about 2 minutes whisking constantly. Add the milk and continue whisking and cooking until the sauce is thickened. Reduce the heat and add the nutmeg, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and garlic. Stir until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove sauce from the heat. In a 9 X 13 pan, spread a few tablespoons of the sauce on the bottom. Top with 3 noodles then top with 1/3 of the roasted asparagus and carrot mixture. Sprinkle a little parmesan Romano and mozzarella cheese over the top of the asparagus. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the cheese. Top with a layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Repeat the layers asparagus, cheese, sauce. Top the sauce on the top of the strata with the remaining cheeses. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden and the sides are bubbly. Let the cool for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Submitted by Corrine Rasterty, Finley NJ

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ASPARAGUS AND ONIONS HOT POT (dairy)

1 lb of fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces

1 large onion, chopped into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons of butter, divided

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon of salt

pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, shredded.

1 cup of panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. In a skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter and saute the asparagus, garlic and onion until just slightly wilted. Put the mixture into the greased pan. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add the flour and stir until smooth. Add the milk and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Add the cream cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the asparagus and onion mixture. Mix to combine. Sprinkle the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

MAPLE GLAZED ASPARAGUS (pareve)

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Paprika

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450. Line the cookie sheet with foil. Place the asparagus spears on a rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup over the top. Toss to make sure all the spears are coated. Lightly sprinkle the asparagus with the paprika, salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 8 to 10 minutes then turn it over and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

ASPARAGUS AND PASTA SALAD (dairy)

6 to 8 slices Morning Star Farm ® fake bacon, cut into bite size pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut on a long diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked according to the package directions, save 1 cup of the water used in cooking

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Parmesan for serving

Cook the Morning Star Farm ® fake bacon in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan until it’s crispy and brown. Drain on paper towels and but keep the oil in the pan. Saute the onion, mushrooms and red pepper in the skillet for about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta and 1/2 cup of the water to the vegetable mixture. Mix to combine, scraping the bottom to remove the cooked on bits of vegetable. Cook for 1 minute and add the remaining water and 1/2 cup parmesan. Mix to combine and cook for 2 more minutes. Place the pasta mixture in a serving bowl, add the cooked Morning Star Farm® fake bacon and toss to combine. Serve with additional parmesan. Serves 6 to 8

Modified from an old Gourmet Magazine recipe

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All In for Asparagus At Any Price/Some Recipes Not Kosher

So I walk into the produce section of my favorite green grocer and what do I spy? Why asparagus at .99 a pound. Are they kidding me? .99 a pound? Sign me up and shut the door, I’m all in for this special. As if in a daze my cart magically makes its way over to the stand and I find myself loading bundle after bundle of that sweet stalk of green goodness into my cart.

By the time I get out of my chlorophyll induced stupor I’m in my kitchen, the proud owner of 10 pounds of the stuff and no real plan on how to use it up before it starts to wilt. My plan, take a deep breath, do a little recipe research and cook up a storm.

Asparagus is one of Mother Nature’s finest gifts and is a sure sign that spring has sprung. It’s a part of the lily family and is sort of a first cousin to onions, leeks and garlic. Loaded with vitamins A, B and C it’s also a great source for folic acid,  It’s at its best from May through June so now is the best time to stock up and chow down. It is a very versatile vegetable that can be prepared by steaming, roasting, grilling or even stir frying it. The spears should be firm and green with tightly closed firm tips. Choose thin or thick stalks is just a matter of personal preference, I don’t really taste a difference between the two. Pass up asparagus with thick woody looking stalks.  I don’t peel the stalks but I do cut off about 1/2 inch of the ends before cooking.

If you’d like a little variety in your life look for white or purple asparagus. They’re the same as the green variety they’ve just been grown differently; the white is grown like some mushrooms, without light so it doesn’t produce chlorophyll. You will find that the white asparagus is a tad bit sweeter but so is the price point. The purple is pretty but it does loose most of its purple color when cooked.

I’ve started cooking and don’t plan on stopping until the last stalk is devoured and invite you to do the same with these terrific recipes

GRILLED ASPARAGUS CRAB TART

 

1lb. asparagus, cut into 1/3’s and grilled slightly

1/4 cup butter or margarine

4 to 5 portabella mushrooms chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup bread crumbs

3 tablespoon parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cups shredded Munster or pepper jack cheese

1/2 lb crabmeat shredded or chopped

8 ounces vegetable cream cheese

4 eggs

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried

 

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 13×9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In a skillet melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently for about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and garlic from the heat and add the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.  Mix to combine and then press mushroom mixture evenly in bottom and up side of greased pan. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the mushroom crust. Place the asparagus and crabmeat on top of the cheese. In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the cream cheese, eggs and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Beat to combine and so that there are no lumps. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus and crabmeat. Sprinkle the top with the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes then serve. Serves 8.

 

PUFFED ASPARAGUS AND BACON BITES

 

1 lb fresh asparagus ends cut off, steamed till just crisp tender

1 package puff pastry dough (2 sheets), defrosted

1 cup shredded pepper jack or Swiss cheese

1/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

 

Preheat oven to 400. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Open puff pastry dough and cut each sheet into 1/3’s. Then cut each strip into 1/3’s. Roll each section out slightly so they form rectangles. On each section, lengthwise, place a few stalks of cooked asparagus on one edge, sprinkle some cheese, bacon and green onions on top of the asparagus and then roll them up. Place the rolls, seam side down on the cookie sheet. Brush the top of each roll with the melted butter and sprinkle the top with a few sesame seeds. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until roll ups are golden browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Cut each roll in half and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

ASPARAGUS POPOVERS

 

1 lb asparagus

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pinch sugar

3 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

 

Preheat oven to 425. In a medium saucepan, add 2 inched of salted water; bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut the spears crosswise into thirds. In a medium cast-iron skillet, add the butter. Place the skillet in the oven to melt the butter. In a medium bowl, microwave the milk on high for 30 seconds. Whisk in the eggs, then the flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add the asparagus pieces to the hot cast-iron skillet and pour the batter on top. Sprinkle with half of the cheese and bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese. Recipe makes 24 pieces

 

From the May 2008 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray

ASPARAGUS TID BITS

 

1 lb asparagus cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 lb smoked white fish, broken into bite size pieces

12 oz gruyere cheese, sliced

1 loaf French bread, sliced in to 1/2-inch slices

1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

kosher salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

 

Preheat oven to 350. Saute the asparagus in the olive oil until it’s just soft and set it aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the slices of French bread with olive oil. Place the oiled pieces, oil side up on the parchment paper, season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Place a small piece of white fish on top of the toasted French bread, then put two to three pieces of asparagus, and top with one small slice of gruyere, Grind a little pepper on top, return to the oven for 2 minutes or just until the cheese melts. Serve immediately. Makes 12 to 14 pieces.

 

ASPARAGUS STRATA

You can vary the amount of cheese according to your taste

 

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces

2 carrots shredded

1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (for sauce)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and pepper

6 large par boiled lasagna noodles

1 to 1 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 to 1 cup grated Romano cheese

1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Preheat oven to 425. Place the asparagus and shredded carrots on a cookie sheet with sides and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes until they just begin to soften. Cool slightly and set them aside. In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the flour and whisk briskly and constantly until it’s combined. Cook for about 2 minutes whisking constantly. Add the milk and continue whisking and cooking until the sauce is thickened. Reduce the heat and add the nutmeg, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and garlic. Stir until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove sauce from the heat. In a 9 X 13 pan, spread a few tablespoons of the sauce on the bottom. Top with 3 noodles then top with 1/3 of the roasted asparagus and carrot mixture. Sprinkle a little parmesan Romano and mozzarella cheese over the top of the asparagus. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the cheese. Top with a layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Repeat the layers asparagus, cheese, sauce. Top the sauce on the top of the strata with the remaining cheeses. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden and the sides are bubbly. Let the cool for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

 

Submitted by Corrine Rasterty, Finley NJ

 

ASPARAGUS AND ONIONS HOT POT

 

1 lb of fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces

1 large onion, chopped into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons of butter, divided

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon of salt

pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, shredded.

1 cup of panko bread crumbs

 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. In a skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter and saute the asparagus, garlic and onion until just slightly wilted. Put the mixture into the greased pan. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add the flour and stir until smooth. Add the milk and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Add the cream cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the asparagus and onion mixture. Mix to combine. Sprinkle the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

 

MAPLE GLAZED ASPARAGUS

 

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Paprika

2 tablespoons maple syrup

 

Preheat oven to 450. Line the cookie sheet with foil. Place the asparagus spears on a rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup over the top. Toss to make sure all the spears are coated. Lightly sprinkle the asparagus with the paprika, salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 8 to 10 minutes then turn it over and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve

ASPARAGUS   AND PASTA SALAD

 

6 to 8   slices Canadian bacon or hickory smoked  bacon, cut into bite size pieces   2 tablespoons olive oil   1  onion, finely chopped

1 red   pepper chopped

1/2 lb   mushrooms, sliced   1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut on a long diagonal into   1/2-inch-thick slices   1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked according to the package directions, save 1 cup   of the water used in cooking   1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Parmesan   for serving

 

Cook the   bacon in a fry pan until it’s crispy and brown. Drain on paper towels and   pour off half of the remaining fat. Saute the onion, mushrooms and red pepper   in the skillet for about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue cooking   for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta and   1/2 cup of the water to the vegetable mixture. Mix to combine, scraping the   bottom to remove the cooked on bits of vegetable. Cook for 1 minute and add   the remaining water and 1/2 cup parmesan. Mix to combine and cook for an   additional 2 minutes. Place the pasta mixture in a serving bowl, add the   cooked bacon and toss to combine. Serve with additional parmesan. Serves 6 to   8

Modified from an old Gourmet Magazine recipe

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.

The Always Amazing (and now afordable) Asparagus

            Available, affordable (for now) and incredibly versatile asparagus is often considered the quintessential spring vegetable. With spring just beginning ‘NOW” seemed like a great time to indulge. Serve it hot or cold depending on your mood it only takes about 10 minutes to wash it, cook it and eat it.

Eating asparagus is really good for you. Five spears contain only 20 calories, have 400 milligrams of potassium are a great source of folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins A, C and B6.  While most asparagus is green, the purple and white varieties are becoming increasingly popular. White asparagus is created by growing the stalks under mounds of earth so they don’t produce chlorophyll (hummm Albino asparagus?) Although more tender than the green variety, in my opinion, white asparagus has a somewhat bland flavor. It is also WAY more expensive than the green variety. When choosing asparagus you should look for thin, medium-sized spears that is firm and green (except for the white asparagus) with tightly closed tips. Avoid asparagus with wrinkled stalks and wilted tips

            When you store your asparagus wrap the bottom of the stalks in a damp paper towel and put everything it a plastic bag. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.  As an alternative, trim the bottom of the spears and stand them, covered, in a glass container, in an inch of water, in the refrigerator, for a few days

To prepare your asparagus for cooking take each spear by its ends and bend it gently.  It will snap at approximately where tenderness begins.  You can save the stem ends (freeze them) or pitch them. If the stalks are at all thick, peel the portion of the stalk below the tip with a vegetable peeler so that the tips and the stalk cook evenly.

       This year, with a bumper crop available I’m planning on “stalking” the asparagus and trying as many new recipes as time and my waist line permit. The following tips and recipes should help you join me in the hunt.

 

Cleaning and Cooking Tips:

Soak the asparagus in cold water for several minutes. Swish it to remove dirt and grit.

To boil, tie the asparagus in bundles (this makes them easy to remove all at once) and immerse in boiling, salted water. Blanch for about 10 minutes, or just until tender. Remove bundles immediately, remove strings, and keep warm.

If using an asparagus cooker or tall pot, tie and stand the asparagus upright with the spears above water, then cover and cook just until the stalks are tender but still firm.

To microwave, arrange the spears in a round baking dish with the tips toward the center. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and cook on HIGH (100% power) for 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, rotating the dish a half turn after about 4 minutes.

If using asparagus in a cold dish, plunge into cold water immediately after cooking.

Avoid cooking asparagus in an iron pot. Asparagus contains tannins which react on contact with iron, altering the vegetable’s color.

 

ASPARAGUS APPLE AND CHICKEN SALAD

This is a great main course salad that helps make left over chicken or turkey

1 cup fresh asparagus cut in 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cubed cooked chicken or turkey

1/2 cup diced red apple

2 cups torn mixed greens

1/2 to 1 cup toasted slivered almonds

Cook asparagus in a small amount of water until tender crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes; drain and cool. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, honey parsley, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine and then add the chicken, apple, almonds and asparagus. Toss the mixture to coat it with the dressing. Serve immediately over greens.  Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled

ASPARAGUS MARINARA WITH FETTUCCINI

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 pound Asparagus; cut into 1″ pieces, tips separated

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 to 4 teaspoons sugar, to taste

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Fettuccine; or other pasta, cooked, drained and kept warm

In a large skillet heat the olive oil for 2 minutes and then add the garlic and onions. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes over a medium heat and then add the crushed tomatoes and basil. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cut asparagus but not tips. Simmer the asparagus in the sauce until tender and then add the tips. Cook 3 to 4 more minutes and then add the white wine and sugar. and salt and pepper. Serve over hot pasta. Serves 4

ASPARAGUS PARMESAN TART

This versatile quiche can be served a brunch, lunch as a quick dinner or a simple appetizer.

1 uncooked ready made pie crust room temperature or 1 recipe of homemade

1 teaspoon flour

1 lb. asparagus, each spear trimmed to 3″

1 cup half and half

2 eggs

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450.  Bake the pie crust till golden, about 15 min.  Cool on rack.  Reduce oven temperature to 375.  Cook asparagus in boiling salted water till just crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.  Drain well. Place the asparagus on paper towels and pat it dry. In a bowl combine the half & half, eggs, cheese, tarragon and salt and pepper.  Arrange asparagus in spoke-of-wheel fashion in crust, tips toward edge and ends meeting in center.  Pour the egg mixture gently over the asparagus and return the filled crust to the oven.  Bake till tart puffs and top browns, about 35 minutes.  Cool slightly to set and serve. Serves 4

ASPARAGUS AND PISTACHIOS

3 lbs. asparagus

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 cup chopped pistachio nuts

Cook the asparagus, uncovered, in boiling water until just barely tender when pierced, 5-8 minutes. Drain and place it on a serving platter.

In a sauce pan melt the butter or margarine and add the lemon juice, marjoram and nuts until the mixture is sizzling. Immediately pour the mixture over asparagus and serve. Serves 8

ASPARAGUS AVOCADO WRAPS

These are fabulous as a quick lunch, easy dinner or simple appetizer

24 spears asparagus, cooked crisp tender and cooled and patted dry

1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 1/2 cups cooked cold white rice

3 tablespoons plain yogurt or mayonnaise

3 whole wheat tortillas, 10 inches in diameter

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

In a small bowl combine the avocado, lime juice, parsley and garlic. Mash to combine into a coarse puree. Set the mixture aside. In another small bowl, combine the together the rice and yogurt or mayonnaise and mix to mix well.

Heat the tortillas for 10 seconds in the microwave to soften them. Lay the tortillas flat the cutting board. Spread the avocado mixture equally among the tortillas. Top each tortilla with an equal amount of the rice mixture, asparagus, cilantro, and onion.  Fold in both sides and the bottom of each tortilla up over the filling; then roll to close. If made in advance, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Return to room temperature before serving. To serve, cut each wrap in half crosswise. Makes 6 servings

SIZZLING HOT ASPARAGUS AND SHRIMP (or MOCK CRAB) SALAD

1 pound asparagus, trimmed, and blanched to crisp tender

1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon red onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 teaspoons pepper flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
1 pound cooked and peeled shrimp (or mock crab if you keep kosher)

In a bowl combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley, red onion. Whisk to combine and set aside Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic and asparagus. Cook until heated turning frequently to prevent the asparagus and garlic from burning. When the asparagus is hot, add the shrimp, stirring constantly until the shrimp warm. Spoon the shrimp asparagus mixture in a serving bowl. Pour the dressing over the top, toss to coat and serve. Serves 4 to 6.