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Taste of the Season: Asparagus Time!

April 24, 2020

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Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson

 

Imported asparagus are available all year round, but there is nothing to beat those locally grown in its short spring season: in Ireland, traditionally beginning on April 23 and ending on Midsummer Day.  Although its delicate flavor and seasonality makes it highly desirable in the kitchen, asparagus is much more than just a pretty vegetable; it’s long been recognized as a good source of dietary fiber and is high in antioxidants. Green asparagus is widely grown and eaten, while white asparagus (regular asparagus just planted under piles of soil that prevent the spears from developing chlorophyll, which gives the vegetable its green color) is also very popular in northern Europe, where “asparagus menus” are a specialty in restaurants in asparagus-growing areas. Asparagus is delicious steamed, grilled or baked, and as a starter or a side dish, it’s often served with hollandaise, vinaigrette, or olive oil. It’s also a versatile ingredient in soups, omelets, and tarts. Go grab a bunch now! 

CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP

SERVES 4 TO 6

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed

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4 ounces unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth

3 cups milk, warmed

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/3 cup heavy cream

Croutons, for garnish (optional)

1. To trim asparagus, hold asparagus about halfway down stalk and bend stalk until the tender stalk separates from the toucher base.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in asparagus tips, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until onions are soft but not browned; sprinkle with flour. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring once or twice, for 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Slowly stir in stock or broth; cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soup thickens. Let cool for about 5 minutes; stir in milk.

4. With an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. (Alternately, working in batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth; return to pan). Stir in pepper, dill, and cream; gently reheat. Sprinkle with croutons, if desired.

 

 

ASPARAGUS WITH HOLLANDAISE 

SERVES 4 TO 6

1 1/4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

Salt 

4 ounces unsalted butter, melted

White pepper

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon butter

1. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, or in a double boiler, combine vinegar, lemon juice, yolks and a pinch of salt; whisk for about 3 minutes, or until mixture is smooth and thick.

2. Whisk in butter, a little at a time. Season with pepper; keep warm.

3. Cook asparagus spears in a large pan or steamer of boiling water for 3 to 6 minutes (depending on their size), or until just tender. Drain, return to pan, and toss with butter. Transfer to a serving plate and spoon hollandaise sauce over top.

ASPARAGUS-BRIE-PROSCIUTTO TART

SERVES 8 TO 10

You can cut this tart into as many slices as you need to serve for an appetizer bite or for a luncheon dish with a salad. 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm brand, defrosted according to directions 

6 ounces Brie, cut into slices or small pieces

48 thin asparagus spears

8 slices prosciutto

Olive oil, for drizzling

Ground pepper

Snipped basil, for topping

Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. On a floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle; trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. With a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

2. Remove pastry shell from oven; evenly sprinkle Brie over pastry. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside tart shell. Cut each slice of prosciutto in half, and using one half at a time, wrap the prosciutto lengthways around 3 thin asparagus spears. Repeat with remaining prosciutto and asparagus and place down the length of the pastry; drizzle a little olive oil over top and sprinkle with pepper. 

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until spears are tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Scatter the basil over just before serving and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Cut into squares or rectangles.

 

 

BACON-WRAPPED ASPARAGUS

SERVES 4 

You can substitute prosciutto in this recipe if you like. If using thick asparagus, you can wrap individually with a half slice of bacon; for thinner ones, bundle 3 to 4 spears together and use a whole slice.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil 

Ground pepper

6 to 8 slices bacon

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread asparagus out onto a large platter; toss with oil and sprinkle with pepper. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

2. Working in batches, wrap single or bundled spears of asparagus in bacon, stretching to cover the entire length of the spear; repeat with remaining asparagus and bacon.

3. Arrange asparagus on a broiler pan or rack (to allow fat to drip off) and roast, turning once or twice, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until bacon is cooked and asparagus is tender. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH TOASTED BREADCRUMBS

SERVES 4 TO 6

Roasting asparagus is a simple cooking method, and when sprinkled with breadcrumbs and grated Dubliner cheese, it’s a terrific side dish.

1 tablespoon butter 

1/2 cup white breadcrumbs

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt 

Ground pepper 

2 to 3 tablespoons grated Dubliner cheese

1. Preheat oven to 475°F.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add breadcrumbs and stir for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned; remove from heat and let cool.

3. Toss asparagus with oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking pan once halfway through,  until asparagus are lightly browned and tender.

4. To serve, arrange asparagus on a platter and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com.

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