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Back to the Kitchen: The Magical Allure of Asparagus

Posted By Karen Young On February 27, 2012 @ 11:14 pm In Eat,Featured,Food,My Daily Find,Recipes,Recipes,Vegetables | No Comments

BY GWEN KENNEALLY

What happened to winter? How can it be March all ready? Even though it is still a little chilly spring is quickly approaching. One of my favorite vegetables this time of year is Asparagus. France’s Louis XVl had special greenhouses built for growing it because of its aphrodisiacal power. I have a childhood memory of my mom and dad each taking one end in their mouths and chewing down until they kissed! A certain yuck factor for a kid, but it makes me smile whenever I serve this delicious spring treat!

Asparagus is a member of the Lily family and is a nutrient-dense food which in high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C. I prefer to roast or grill them and then add a bit of balsamic or a squeeze of lemon and a touch of Parmesan cheese. I love a good Cream of Asparagus soup, but I have also included a vegan non-dairy version. Take a walk through the farmer’s market or even in the grocery store and you will find an abundance of asparagus for all of your springtime entertaining!

Cream Of Asparagus Soup

2 pounds green asparagus

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2-cup heavy cream

Squeeze of lemon juice to taste

Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add stock and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.

Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl and return to pan. Stir in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips. Serves 4-6

Asparagus Soup

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 leek, sliced (white part only)

3 shallots, thinly sliced

5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1-pound asparagus, woody ends removed, sliced into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place stock, potato, leek, shallot, garlic, thyme and marjoram in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potato is tender, about 8 minutes. Add asparagus, return to a simmer, and cook, covered, until the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes more.

Pour the soup into a large blender or food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Buttermilk Balsamic

1 bunch asparagus
1 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 eggplant
1 red pepper, seeded
2 ears corn
1 small jicama, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch arugula
1 head romaine
Salt and pepper

Lightly coat asparagus, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pepper and corn with olive oil.. Heat cast iron grill pan over high heat. Grill vegetables until tender. Toss arugula and romaine leaves with jicama and Tomatoes. With buttermilk balsamic dressing e in a bowl. Arrange on platter and top with grilled vegetables. You can top with ground pepper, shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

Buttermilk Balsamic Dressing

3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup Balsamic
1-cup olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients until well mixed. Let Stand for one hour.

 Roast Carrots, Parsnips and Asparagus

8 carrots, peeled with greens on and trimmed to 1 inch
8 parsnips
32 asparagus
Kosher Salt, pepper
Olive oil

Toss in a baking pan with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 until brown and slightly caramelized, turning occasionally about 30 minutes.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata

1-pound asparagus
1 dozen eggs
1-cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1-teaspoon thyme
1-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon pepper
2 cups goat cheese

Butter a 9-12 inch Pyrex rectangular pan. Set aside. In a large Sauté pan, melt butter and sauté asparagus, onion, and bell pepper. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Add the asparagus mixture and mix well. Crumble and add the goat cheese. Pour into baking dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 oven about 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Asparagus Risotto

1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blanch asparagus pieces in large pot of boiling, salted water 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse asparagus under cold water. Drain asparagus well. Bring chicken stock to simmer in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep broth hot. Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir 3 minutes. Add white wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Continue cooking until rice is tender but still slightly firm in center and mixture is creamy, adding chicken stock 1 cup at a time and stirring almost constantly, about 20 minutes. Add blanched asparagus pieces and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until incorporated. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Asparagus and Lemon Cream Fettuccine

1-pound asparagus
2 large shallots
3 lemons
1 pound dried fettuccine
4 tablespoons butter
1/12 cups heavy cream

Trim asparagus and diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Finely chop shallots. Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure 3 tablespoons.
Fill 6-quart pasta pot three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for asparagus and pasta. Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, and with a slotted spoon transfer to ice water to stop cooking. Reserve water in pot over low heat, covered. Drain asparagus. In a deep 12-inch heavy skillet cook shallots in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and zest and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and remove skillet from heat. Return water in pot to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and add to sauce with asparagus, remaining tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat mixture over low heat, gently tossing until just heated through.

Asparagus Pie

4 large eggs

1 cup half & half

1-cup whole milk

1/2-teaspoon salt

Salt and black pepper to taste

Pinch ground nutmeg

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded

1-pound fresh asparagus

1 pie crust (see recipe below or yes you can use a store bought!)

Pre-heat oven to 350. Place your crust in a pie tin and prick bottom and sides with a fork and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie plate from oven, cool on rack.

In two-quart saucepan bring 4 cups of water to boil over high heat.  Meanwhile in a medium bowl whisk eggs, milk, half & half, salt, pepper and nutmeg until well blended. Trim asparagus and cut into 3/4″ pieces.  Add asparagus to boiling water and cook 6-8 minutes until tender, drain into colander and rinse with cool water. Pat asparagus dry and spread over bottom of piecrust. Sprinkle with Gruyere and pour egg mixture over asparagus and cheese. Place pie plate on foil lined baking sheet and bake 55-60 minutes until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Serves 6-8

Best Basic Pie Pastry

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

½ cup butter

Up to 8 Tablespoons ice water

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the shortening into the flour until the pieces are the size of rice. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over part of the flour mixture and stir very gently with a fork, Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat using 2 tablespoons of water (up to eight) until all the dough is moistened. Divide dough in half. Form each into a ball you can do this the evening before wrap in plastic. This is enough for 1 nine-inch double-crusted pie or two baked pastry shells.

Double crusted pies-

On a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth roll dough into a twelve-inch circle. Allow the crust to hang over the plate about 1/4 of an inch for under and 1/2 inch for over. Prick the upper crust to allow steam to escape. Fit under crust into the pie plate, add filling then add the top crust. Press edges lightly together.

9-inch pastry shell

Taking one of the balls roll dough on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth into a twelve-inch circle. Ease the pastry into a nine-inch pie plate, Trim to 1/2 inch beyond the pie pan and fold under the extra pastry. To flute the edges, place your thumb against the inside of the pastry and press the dough around your thumb with your other hand’s thumb and index finger. Prick the bottom all around where the bottom and the sides meet and all over the bottom and sides.

9 inch with pastry leaves

Taking one of the balls roll into 12-inch circle. Fit carefully into 9-inch pie plate reserving edges. Between wax paper roll trimmings to 1/8 inch thick. Remove top layer and using a sharp knife carefully cut out 2 by 3/4 inch pastry leaves. With a toothpick make veins. Mix one egg yolk with a tablespoon of water. Brush crust edge with egg mixture. Overlap and press leaves on the edge. Brush leaves with yolk mixture.

Tarts

Taking one of the balls, on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth roll into a 10-inch circle. Gently place over the tart pan pressing up against the sides. Trim to 1/4 of an inch above the pan.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out he r websites www.Backtothekitchen.net and http://magpieminipie.vpweb.com. Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON 

 

 

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