Ways to Use Asparagus

Asparagus Dip
Asparagus and Citrus Salad
Sesame Asparagus Salad
Asparagus Frittata with Red Bell Peppers
Grilled Asparagus with Pancetta
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Szechuan Asparagus with Water Chestnuts

Asparagus is an ancient gourmet vegetable. It is pictured as an offering in a 5,000-year-old Egyptian frieze. There are asparagus recipes in the oldest surviving cookbook, Apicius’s third-century treatise, On the Subject of Cooking. A Roman emperor had a special fleet to transport the crop, which is widely grown these days in the Mediterranean region, Asia, North and South America.

When shopping for aspargus, “the first thing to look at is the tip of the spear or the bad,” says Marcella Hazan in the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. “It should be tightly closed and erect, not open and Ruby”

Alice Waters, in Chez Panisse Vegetables, said that to make basic boiled asparagus, “plunge it into boiling salted water” and cook uncovered until it is “just barely tender when pierced with a knife through the thickest part of the stem. Start testing after a few minutes. Bear in mind that it will keep cooking a little as it drains.”

Asparagus Spread or Dip  [top]

1 lemon
1 pound steamed asparagus, sliced into pieces
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Grate lemon zest and reserve; cut the lemon into wedges. Put the zest, asparagus, and garlic in a food processor; squeeze in half of the lemon wedges and pulse to make a chunky puree.

Put the mixture, along with the scallions and large pinch of salt into a medium bowl and mash until the mixture is well combined. Add the cilantro and mash a few more times.

Season with salt and squeeze in lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Source: Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Asparagus and Citrus Salad   [top]

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or dry sherry
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 oranges (preferably blood oranges)
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

1. In a small bowl combine shallots with the vinegar and sherry; let stand at least 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, zest one of the oranges, avoiding the white pith. Finely chop zest and add to the shallots.

3. Squeeze 1/3 cup juice from zested orange and add to the bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

4. Cut asparagus spears in half or in fourths and cook in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender; drain well and remove from pan to cool. Toss the vinaigrette with the cooled asparagus.

5. Cut the ends of the remaining oranges and peel them by cutting down the fruit vertically, following the contours of the fruit.

6. Slice the peeled orange horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange the orange slices and asparagus spears on salad plates and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon toasted walnuts.

Source: California Asparagus Commission

Sesame Asparagus Salad   [top]

2 lb. asparagus cut into 1-1/2″ pieces

1. Cover asparagus in salted boiling water. Cook until tender.

2. Rinse immediately in cold water to stop cooking process. Pat dry.

3. Mix 4 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. honey, 2 tsp. sesame seed oil, 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds and pour over asparagus.

Source: California Asparagus Commission

Asparagus Frittata with Red Bell Peppers   [top]

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and blanched
salt, as needed
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1-1/2 tablespoon butter, softened
lemon wedges and sprigs of Italian parsley for garnish

1. Reserve 6 asparagus spears. Cut remaining asparagus at an angle into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

2. Sauté bell pepper in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in onion and reserved asparagus pieces; sauté for 1 minute.

3. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to drain on paper towel; reserve.

4. Whisk chopped parsley, salt and pepper into beaten eggs. Stir in cheese and reserved sautéed vegetables.

5. Coat the inside of a heavy, non-stick 12-inch frying pan (with a cover) with softened butter. Pour egg mixture into pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, covered, until eggs are just firm, about 35 minutes. Remove cover; bake until top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

6. Loosen the frittata, then cover pan with a large, warmed serving platter. Flip frying pan over onto platter. Cut frittata into 6 wedges; garnish each with 1 reserved asparagus spear. Divide wedges among 6 serving plates, then put a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley on each plate.

Source: California Asparagus Commission

Grilled Asparagus with Pancetta, Pepato Cheese and Herbs    [top]

1-1/2 pounds jumbo or extra-large fresh asparagus, trimmed
olive oil, as needed
2 tablespoons grated pepato cheese (Romano cheese with
peppercorns) or plain Romano
3 ounces thinly-sliced pancetta or 3 slices American bacon,
cooked crisp, then crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 tablespoon shredded basil
1 tablespoon shredded mint

1. Generously coat asparagus spears with olive oil. Grill over medium-hot heat.

2. Turn frequently, until asparagus is lightly browned and tender-crisp, about 6 minutes for extra-large and a minute or two more for jumbo.

3. Arrange on a warmed serving platter.

4. Sprinkle with cheese, pancetta, and herbs.

Source: California Asparagus Commission

Cream of Asparagus Soup   [top]

3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cut asparagus pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1. In a 1-quart saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus pieces and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes or until asparagus are very tender.

2. Place the broth and asparagus in a blender or food processor container fitted with a steel blade. Cover and process until pureed.

3. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour until absorbed. Stir in the milk, half-and-half, and asparagus puree; cook, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Add the salt and pepper.

Source: Carol Gelles, 1000 Vegetarian Recipes

Szechuan Asparagus with Water Chestnuts   [top]

1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons mirin (rice wine) or sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions (2 inch pieces; white and green parts)
1/2 cup julienned red bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cut up asparagus stems and tips (2-inch pieces)
one 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili oil

1. In a small bowl, stir together the water, minrin, soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar; set aside.

2. In a wok or large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat add the scallions, bell peppers, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the asparagus; cook, stirring, until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the sauce mixture and water chestnuts; cook, stirring until sauce thickens and water chestnuts are heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sesame and chili oils.

Source: Carol Gelles, 1000 Vegetarian Recipes