I LOVE ASPARAGUS!

I LOVE ASPARAGUS!

I have always loved asparagus!  When I was young, it was a special treat we would have once or twice during the season (due to the price).  Now, I stock up whenever it’s on sale (when it’s in season).  That is one of the few things I love about living in California’s Central Valley … TONS of asparagus, though not as much as we used to have.  Many farmers have switched if not all, then some of their asparagus crops to others, like blueberries.

Asparagus is a perennial herb that grows from a thick round underground stem. (rhizome) The leaves alternate, reducing to fine scales that give the mature plant a ferny appearance. Flowers produce along the upper stems, usually singly but also common in pairs. Fruits are globe-shaped and reddish orange in color about 0.2 inches in diameter. Mature plants can reach a height of 3 to 6 feet and though originally a cultivated plant it can be found wild all over North America.

Stalks are harvested in the spring until they reach a height where the branches begin to spread and the stalk becomes tough. To force new growth you can cut down mature growth and the plant will send up new stalks. Always cut your asparagus at a diagonal as this seems to damage the plant the least and prompt it to send new growth.

Any decent cook book will have ideas on how to use asparagus but I have included a few just to get you started.

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Fresh Asparagus Soup

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can low-salt chicken broth (13-3/4 oz.)
  • 2 tbs. butter or margarine
  • 2 tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt.
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Cut asparagus into ½ in. to 1-in. pieces. Put the asparagus, chopped onion, and 1/2 cup chicken broth in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until asparagus is tender, about 12 min. Process the mixture in a blender to puree the vegetables. Set aside.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Blend in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 min. Don’t let the mixture brown. Whisk in the remaining chicken broth. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Stir in the asparagus purée and the milk.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl, ladle a little of the hot mixture into the sour cream to warm it, and stir to blend.

Add the sour cream mixture and the lemon juice to the soup and stir well. Continue stirring while heating the soup to serving temperature, but don’t allow it to boil. Serve immediately.

Melana Hiatt

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Creamy Asparagus and Carrots

  • 2 medium carrots — cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus — cut into 1″
  • 3 ounces cream cheese — softened
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch pepper

In a saucepan; bring carrots and water to a boil; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add asparagus; cover and cook for 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain, reserving liquid; add enough water to liquid to equal 1/3 cup. Set vegetables aside; return liquid to skillet. Combine cream cheese, flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper; add to liquid. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly, about 3 min. Stir in vegetables and heat through. Garnish with fresh parsley or chives.

Melana Hiatt

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Scalloped Asparagus

  • 1/4 c Butter or margarine
  • 1/4 c All-purpose flour
  • 1 ts Salt
  • 2 c Milk
  • 1 1/2 c Grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 20 oz cut-up asparagus
  • 1/2 c Toasted slivered almonds
  • Paprika

Melt butter and stir in flour and salt until smooth. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Heat for 5 minutes or until thickened and smooth. Stir occasionally. Stir in cheese until melted. Place asparagus in a deep, 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 of toasted almonds over asparagus. Pour half of sauce over almonds. Repeat layers with remaining asparagus, almonds and sauce. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

Melana Hiatt

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Asparagus With Dill Dressing

  • 1 1/2 tb Dijon-style mustard
  • 3 tb White wine or herb vinegar
  • 1/3 c Olive oil
  • 1/3 c Chopped dill
  • 1/4 c Chopped chives
  • Chopped tarragon leaves– (from 3-4 sprigs)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Mix the mustard with the vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the dill, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more vinegar or oil if you like. Top steamed asparagus and serve.

Melana Hiatt

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Asparagus and Lemon Grass with Shallot Vinaigrette

  • 1 1/2 lb Asparagus stalks
  • 1/3 c Olive oil
  • 1/4 c Vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 tb Red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tb Mustard, Dijon
  • 2 tb Shallots; minced
  • 1 tb Lemon grass; minced

Peel the asparagus if necessary and cook the stalks in lightly salted water for 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness, or until fork tender but still firm. Drain under cold water and set the stalks aside in serving dish. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk them vigorously. Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar or salt and pepper if needed. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Melana Hiatt

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Pickled Asparagus

  • 1/4 Tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. dill seed or 1 head
  • 2 1/2 C. vinegar
  • 1/4 C. pickling salt
  • 2 1/2 C. water

–FOR BIG BATCHES:–

  • 10 C. water
  • 1 c. salt
  • 10 c. vinegar

Pack clean asparagus into clean jars, add spices from above, pour vinegar mixture to 1/2 inch of top. Process boiling water bath in 10 minutes. Will do 7 quarts. NOTE: 1 (20 pound) box of fresh asparagus makes about 10 quarts.

Melana Hiatt

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Crab and Asparagus Soup (Vietnamese)

  • 6 ounces crab meat
  • 18 spears white asparagus — peeled
  • 2 eggs — beaten
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • 6 cups Chicken broth — canned
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
  • salt

Cut onions into 1-inch lengths, include part of the green tops. Cut 2 (1/4-inch thick) slices from a finger of gingerroot. Bring broth, onions, ginger root, and bouillon to a
rapid boil. Reduce heat, cover, simmer 1 hour. Strain broth. Remove and fat. Note – to make broth from scratch, use chicken carcass or bones The base broth should be very
clear, skimmed of fat and strained of seasoning matters. Add crab to broth. Cut asparagus spears into thirds; add to broth. Simmer gently, uncovered, 10 minutes. Beat
eggs in a small bowl. Slowly pour eggs into soup, stirring gently but constantly to stream egg threads. Makes 6 1-cup servings. Garnish with cilantro sprig.

Melana Hiatt

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