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Lightly steamed, boiled or roasted, fresh asparagus is a tasty, nutritious side dish.
In this area, fresh asparagus season begins in March or early April and ends around late June or when the hot summer weather begins.
Asparagus, imported mostly from Mexico, Chile or Peru, is now available all year round, but you’ll find a good supply of fresh “homegrown” asparagus in local supermarkets this time of year.
Fresh asparagus from the garden has a unique taste that’s superior to others, which is why most home gardeners and those who shop for locally grown asparagus consider it a springtime delicacy.
Fresh asparagus sold at our local farm stands and farmers markets is usually cut, sorted, trimmed and banded, just as in a supermarket.
Garden fresh asparagus is sweet and tender and takes only a few minutes to cook. If you don’t use it the day you buy it, keep it chilled and moist until you do. Fresh, tender asparagus can even be eaten raw.
Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, microwaved or roasted, which is my favorite way to prepare it.
To roast, just spread the trimmed asparagus on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with a little olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Place it in a 425-450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes, depending on its thickness. The pencil-thin ones only take about 10 minutes.
Asparagus is also good seasoned with chives, parsley, chervil, savory or tarragon. Add a little lemon juice and top it with yogurt or sour cream.
Slice asparagus spears diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, leaving tips whole. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet. Adjust heat to medium high; add cut asparagus; cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
Roasted Asparagus with Tarragon Brie Sauce
This is a really flavorful accompaniment to any main course meal.
18-24 fresh asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
1 tsp. dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
In a medium bowl, toss asparagus and red pepper with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and place in a 425-degree oven for 10-12 minutes; allow to cool.
Combine evaporated milk, flour, tarragon, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to thicken. Add Brie and continue to stir until melted. Add lemon juice and cook for an additional minute, stirring occasionally.
Place cooked asparagus and red peppers on a serving plate and spoon the tarragon Brie sauce over them. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Asparagus with Rosemary
This can also be done in the oven, but the flavor and aroma of the rosemary is enhanced when done on the grill.
1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 thick, long-stemmed rosemary sprigs
2 strips of lemon zest, julienne
2 garlic cloves, slivered
1/4 cup fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat grill to medium. In a bowl, toss asparagus with a little olive oil. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill grate, or use a foil pan. Arrange the rosemary on the foil, and then place the asparagus on top of the rosemary sprigs. Grill until the asparagus softens and becomes lightly browned all over, turning once or twice to ensure even cooking, about 10-12 minutes. The asparagus should be crisp and tender.
Remove the asparagus to a platter, and discard the rosemary sprigs. Add the lemon zest, garlic, chives, salt and pepper and a little more olive oil. Toss to coat well. Makes 4 servings.
Baked Asparagus with Cheddar Cheese
This is a simple, tasty dish with only five ingredients.
1 pound fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsps. breadcrumbs
2 tsps. butter
Spray a shallow baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the asparagus spears in the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle shredded cheese over them and then the breadcrumbs. Dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Makes 4-6 servings.
Asparagus Pasta Stir Fry
This can be used as a main course or as a side-dish with a grilled steak or pork chop.
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 oz. penne pasta, cooked and drained
Slice asparagus diagonally into 2-inch pieces. Using a hot, lightly oiled wok or deep-sided pan, stir-fry asparagus and onion until crisp and tender. Add seasonings and mix well. Add cooked pasta and stir-fry until thoroughly heated through and evenly mixed. Makes 4-6 servings.
Asparagus Wild Rice Salad
This asparagus wild rice dish is good served hot or cold.
3 cups asparagus
1 cup smoked salmon (slice in small chunks)
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup red bell pepper, sliced
2 cups wild rice, uncooked
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
Cook wild rice to package directions; rinse in cold water. Slice asparagus into thin diagonal pieces. Combine asparagus, salmon, cranberries, red bell pepper and cooled, cooked wild rice; mix well. Place dressing ingredients in a bowl and combine. Toss dressing with salad. Makes 4 servings.