Spring Produce: Asparagus

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Spring is in the air and the vegetables are fast on its heels. Asparagus is one of my favorite spring vegetables, and many of you with community-supported agriculture baskets will probably be seeing a lot of asparagus here shortly.  Not sure about you, but I usually blank when it comes to side dishes. As much as I love buttered salted veggies, it’s nice to have more ways to make vegetables exciting and flavorful.

To pick asparagus, choose bright green, firm stalks. Not limp or woody looking stalks. Bright green or violet stems are good. The tips should be tightly closed.

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The best way to prep asparagus is to first snap the asparagus stalk. If you grab both ends of the asparagus and gently bend, the asparagus stalk, the stalk will snap where the stalk gets tough, and the tough part you don’t want to eat will snap right off with minimal effort.  Wrap cut ends in damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the fridge.

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Asparagus Au Gratin

1 bunch trimmed asparagus cut in half

1 tablespoon butter

½ onion diced

½ cup chopped mushrooms (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp. thyme

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

salt and pepper

¼ cup white cheddar

¼ Gruyere

1 tablespoon Parmesan

In an oven safe pan sauté butter, onion, garlic and, if using, mushrooms and thyme season with salt and pepper.  Add asparagus and sauté a minute or two. Add stock and cream and stir. Boil 3-5 minutes.

If not using an oven safe pan, transfer the mixture to an oven safe dish. Top with cheese and

bake for 15-20 minutes on 425 degrees.

Other Variations:

Roasted Greek Asparagus: Arrange asparagus and tomato on a nonreactive pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven 15-20 minutes.  Top with Feta and serve.

Roasted bacon wrapped asparagus topped with gruyere cheese: wrap asparagus with ½ slice of bacon, roast in 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Top with shredded gruyere and black pepper just before serving.

Pan roasted asparagus with soy sauce and ginger:    Mix ½ tsp. of ginger, dash red pepper, and 3 tablespoons soy sauce together. In a wok or sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and soy sauce mixture to pan and sauté 2-3 minutes then cover and turn off the heat and let steam 2 minutes (more if you like more tender asparagus)

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