When spring arrives, so does asparagus. This week’s cook column is dedicated to asparagus, that wonderful vegetable that helps announce the arrival of spring. The name asparagus comes from the Greek word asparagos. Asparagus is currently cultivated around the world, but its origin is the East Mediterranean area. The cultivation of asparagus began 2,000 years ago. It was eaten fresh and dried for use in the winter by the Greeks and Romans.
The vegetable appeared in England about the year 1000 and was known as sperage and sperach. Due to its delicate flavor and diuretic properties, it has been used not only as a vegetable but also as medicine.
“Velocius quam asparagi conquantur” is a phrase coined by Emperor Augustus. Translated, it means to do something faster than you can cook asparagus. Julius Caesar and King Louis XIV were both fans of asparagus. Caesar wanted it served with melted butter and in the time of Louis XIV it became known as the ‘King of Vegetables.’ King Louis XVI loved asparagus so much that his gardeners grew it in hothouses so he could enjoy it year round.
By the time the colonists came to America, asparagus was so popular that it made the trip with them and was often referred to as the “Food of Kings.” Asparagus is low in calories and is “a good source of potassium, fiber, folacin (necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease), thiamin, vitamin B6, is one of the riches sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls, and contains glutathione (GSH, and antioxidant). www.word-foodhistory.com , www.asparagus.org .
“Store asparagus, with the spears pointing up, in a glass filled with about 1-inch of water. Cover the glass with a piece of plastic wrap, which you can secure with a rubber band, and keep it refrigerated. Before using asparagus, you’ll need to get rid of the tough, fibrous ends. The easiest way to do this is to bend the stem until it snaps (where the most tender part begins).” myrecipes.com, Marge Perry, April 2011.
myrecipes.com, Cooking Light 2012
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2-1/2 (1-inch) sliced asparagus
(about 1 pound)
1-1/2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons finely chopped
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in rind.
Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and plunge into ice water; drain. Combine preserves mixture, asparagus, and raspberries in a bowl; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with pecans.
8 slices bacon
16 thick fresh asparagus spears
1/2 lemon, juiced
16 slices multi-grain bread,
8 ounce package cream cheese,
2 tablespoons minced fresh
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on paper towels. Crumble bacon when cooled.
Cook asparagus in a skillet with a small amount of water over medium heat until crisp and tender, about 6 to 8 minutes; drain and sprinkle with lemon juice.
Flatten bread slices with a rolling pin.
Stir cream cheese, crumbled bacon, and chives together in a small bowl until evenly mixed. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture onto each slice of bread and top with an asparagus spear. Roll the bread tightly around the asparagus; arrange onto prepared baking sheet with seam side down. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
Asparagus and Crab Risotto
1 pound fat asparagus, washed,
tough ends removed and
discarded, stems peeled,
1-1/2” of tips cut off and
reserved and the rest cut in
Chicken or vegetable broth,
enough to make 6 cups when
added to asparagus cooking
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 cups Arborio rice
8 ounces lump crab meat,
carefully picked over to
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated
Parmigiano Regiano cheese
1 tablespoon minced Italian
Bring a quart of water to boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and stir in the asparagus tips. Cook until just tender and still bright green, scoop out, refresh in cold water and drain. Set aside to use at the end. Add sliced asparagus to the pot and cook until just tender. Remove and reserve.
Pour the cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough broth to make 6 cups. Bring to slow simmer.
Meanwhile, place one tablespoon of the butter and the canola oil in a broad heavy pot and add the shallot. Cook over medium-high heat until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains.
Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth/liquid and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid is gone. Add another half-cup of liquid and a generous pinch of salt. Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue for 2 more times, then cover in between and allow to cook, adding more broth and stirring, then covering, for a total of 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved sliced asparagus stems. Begin testing the rice; when done it should be tender but firm to the bite.
About 2 minutes before being done, add half of the crab meat, parmesan cheese and remaining butter. Stir constantly so the cheese is completely melted into the risotto. Remove from heat, correct seasoning to taste/ preference.
There should be enough liquid so the risotto is a tiny bit loose. Turn out onto a warm platter, top with remaining crabmeat, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Shaved Asparagus and Bacon Pizza
kitchenkonfidence.com, Brandon Matzek
*Please note that I did not include specific measurements for the basic pizza ingredients. I find my pizzas turn out better when I am not worrying about measurements. Simply add ingredients to taste (a sprinkling of this or a drizzle of that).
1/2 pound asparagus (do not
snap the woody ends)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ball pizza dough*
Fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
(I used about 9 ounces)
Parmesan cheese (avoid the
4 slices bacon, cooked and
1 scallion, trimmed and sliced
on a bias
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave asparagus into long, thin ribbons. The best way to do this is to lay the asparagus flat on a cutting board. Hold the woody end of the asparagus to stabilize. Start peeling the asparagus just above the woody end (about 1 inch up). Run the peeler from the bottom to the tip several times (until you can’t do it any longer) with each stalk. Some ribbons will be very thin and others a bit thick. This is fine.
Place ribbons in a medium bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil (1 – 2 teaspoons), tossing to coat. They should be glistening and coated, not swimming in oil. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and several turns of black pepper, tossing once again.
Spray a pizza pan or baking sheet with unflavored, nonstick spray. Stretch pizza dough into a round (large enough to fit your pizza pan). Very lightly drizzle the dough with olive oil, using your hands to evenly spread the oil around. Sprinkle dough with a small pinch of kosher salt.
Top pizza with grated mozzarella cheese then an even dusting of Parmesan cheese. Pile on shaved asparagus. Transfer pizza to preheated oven and cook until the crust is golden brown (bottom and edge) and the cheese is nice and bubbly (10 – 13 minutes).
Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and scallions then slice and serve.
Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots
summertomato.com, Darya Rose
Asparagus (1/4 – 1/2 bunch for
Carrots, 3-5 medium-small
1 clove garlic, minced
2-4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Crush and mince your garlic clove and set aside. After washing, grip each asparagus spear near the middle with one hand and use the other hand to snap off the bottom, then cut them into 1-2 inch bite-sized pieces. Peel your carrots with a vegetable peeler and slice at an angle into half inch pieces. (Angled cuts increase the surface area of the carrot and are better for cooking.)
Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add asparagus to the pan and stir again. Sprinkle sea salt onto the vegetables and allow them to cook until asparagus is bright green and starting to sweat, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in a single layer. Allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to mix garlic with the vegetables. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender and a thin balsamic glaze begins to form on the vegetables. Remove from the pan and served immediately.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Asparagus and Parmesan Rice
4 skinless, boneless chicken
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive
oil, or more as needed
1 cup chopped fresh asparagus
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or
Salt and ground black pepper to
4 slices deli ham
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup uncooked white rice (long
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
with onion and celery, drained
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese,
or to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of heavy plastic (re-sealable freezer bags work well) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook and stir the asparagus, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper just until the asparagus is bright green and beginning to become tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Lay each chicken breast out onto a work surface, and place a slice of ham on the flattened breast. Place 1/4 of the asparagus mixture over the ham, and top with 1/4 of the cheddar cheese. Roll the chicken breast around the filling and secure with toothpicks or tie with cotton kitchen string; place the stuffed breasts into a 9x13-inch baking dish, seam sides down. Top each breast with about 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, 30 to 40 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a stuffed breast should read 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Baste the stuffed chicken breasts occasionally with pan juices while baking.
While chicken is baking, bring chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of butter to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in rice and tomatoes, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook the rice until tender and the broth has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and let rice stand covered for about 5 minutes; stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve stuffed chicken breasts on the cooked rice.
Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Cheese Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat grill to medium-high. Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat; add cheese, milk, lemon juice, and garlic; cook until smooth, whisking to blend, about 3 minutes. Keep warm on low heat.
Meanwhile, brush asparagus with oil to coat. Place on grill and cook until lightly charred, turning to cook all sides, about 4 minutes total.
To serve, place asparagus on serving plates; pour sauce over.
Grilled Mexican Asparagus and Cheese Tacos
4 yellow corn tortillas
16 pieces asparagus, grilled
1/4 cup of Monterey Jack
1/4 cup of white cheddar cheese,
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, for
Preheat grill. For each taco, spread one quarter of the cheeses and 4 pieces of the asparagus on each tortilla, then season with salt and pepper. Fold in half and lightly brush the outside with olive oil.
Grill for 3 minutes on each side, or until the tortilla is crispy and cheese has melted.
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