Let asparagus welcome folks to spring dining tables

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April in Natchez is many things. It’s the last week or two of Pilgrimage; it’s the big push of azaleas, dogwoods, bridal wreath and Lady Banks roses; it’s rain and temperatures that go up and down. At my house, the last week of Pageant is upon us and I know my daughter Emily will be glad. With the move and Pilgrimage, not only has her mother done very little cooking but I seem to be struggling to get to the grocery store in a timely fashion.

This week we are trying to get a little unpacking done and I am on the hunt for some new recipes to cook for Emily and I.

With working every day I really try to plan ahead and I love one-dish meals. But it gets harder and harder to predict a teenager’s schedule and I’ve used up every one-dish, crock pot recipe that I have.

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When on the hunt for a new recipe, I used to be at the mercy of my cookbook collection and stacks of culinary magazines. Now, of course, there is the Internet and there are plenty of good sites to peruse.

A few of my favorites are, foodnetwork.com, myrecipes.com and verybestbaking.com. You can search for any type of ingredient and get literally hundreds of ideas and recipes. Sometimes all you need is an idea, not necessarily the recipe. Also, I’m a big fan of the cooking classes at High Cotton downtown. It never fails that while they are cooking I think of another way I can use flavor combination they are busy assembling.

Since spring always brings fresh asparagus with it, I went to these sites to see what would come up. Here are few recipes that I found that sound like a delicious way to use this spring favorite.

This first one looks especially quick and easy, besides good.

Fettucine with asparagus and prosciutto

3 cups (1-inch) diagonally cut asparagus

9-ounce package fresh fettuccine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped prosciutto

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

Cook asparagus and pasta in boiling water 3 minutes or until the pasta is done. Drain asparagus and pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Wipe pan dry with a paper towel. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add prosciutto; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add prosciutto; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in asparagus and pasta, reserved cooking liquid, vinegar, salt, red pepper, and black pepper; toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

From myrecipes.com

I love grilled asparagus as do my girls. I had always used the very thin spears until I had the thicker ones at a class at High Cotton, since then I have always used the thicker ones.

Grilled Asparagus

1 pound fresh asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 / 4 teaspoon salt

1 / 4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind


Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or large zip-top plastic bag; add asparagus, turning to coat.

Remove asparagus from oil mixture.

Grill asparagus on a pan on your grill or on a grill pan over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 2 to 4 minutes or until tender, turning once. Remove asparagus, and sprinkle evenly with grated lemon rind; serve immediately. If you use the thicker spears, peel the bottom third of the spear and grill just until tender.

From myrecipes.com

And next to grilled asparagus my favorite is asparagus soup, this one is from the food network.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

3 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed

8 cups chicken stock

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup minced shallots

1 cup minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 / 2 teaspoon salt

1 / 4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 / 2 cup heavy cream

1 / 4 cup finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Trim the attractive top tips from the asparagus, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Snap off the woody stem end and discard. Cut the remaining tender stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and refresh in an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Reserve the stock.

In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, if serving the soup later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.

From foodnetwork.com