By Amanda Stone
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Spring has finally sprung around here -- at least for now. With that comes asparagus, shooting up overnight, aiming its pointy head toward the sky.
It simply doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It's green. It's skinny. It has a weird, pointy head.
Despite its physical description, asparagus has lots to offer our bodies and our palettes. It's full of fiber and antioxidants and has vitamins galore. And it's yummy, to boot.
Because asparagus is splendidly perennial, it's popping up right now with no effort on your part. If you don't have asparagus in your garden, go to the farmers market.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend with an unruly asparagus patch that needed harvested. I was so happy to oblige. The beauty of asparagus is that it grows fast and furious: A couple of days after I snapped off a bag full of stalks, there were more popping up already.
But then it's gone, and we have to shop for it the grocery store again. Sigh.
When snapped off at the base and eaten raw, asparagus is crunchy with a pleasant, fresh flavor. Don't shun asparagus from your raw vegetable repertoire. Add it to your fresh vegetable platter and dip it. Or chop it into bite-size pieces and toss it in a salad.
However, if your asparagus bends rather than snaps, you're better off cooking it. Asparagus is tasty any way it's cooked: grilled, sautŽed, steamed, roasted or used in soup -- asparagus stands tall however you choose to prepare it.
My favorite way to eat asparagus is super simple, which surely influences why I love it so much. I sautŽ chopped asparagus with a couple of pieces of crumbled bacon, then add Dijon mustard and fresh parsley. It takes a few minutes to prepare, and it tastes fresh and amazing.
And it has bacon. You know you love bacon.
If you love asparagus, you should plant some. Take time when considering a location; your asparagus patch will be with you for decades. Choose a sunny spot that won't get tilled up with the rest of your garden.
Try the following recipes with your fresh asparagus finds.
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Sesame seeds, toasted
In a large covered saucepan, cook asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer asparagus to a large bowl of ice water. Let stand for 2 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Place asparagus in a large resealable plastic bag.
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce and sesame oil; pour over asparagus. Seal bag. Chill for 1 to 4 hours. Drain, discarding soy sauce mixture. Serve asparagus chilled, sprinkled with sesame seeds.
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup chopped, seeded tomato
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
6 drops hot pepper sauce
In 1/2 inch of water, bring trimmed asparagus to a boil then reduce heat and cook until fork tender (about 5 to 7 minutes). Drain asparagus well and place in food processor or blender with the onion and garlic; blend until smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients, then add the asparagus mixture and combine. Chill. Serve with raw veggies or tortilla chips.
Adapted from mnn.com
2 pounds fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
12 slices bacon
1/2 cup light brown sugar, honey or molasses
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the asparagus spears into 12 bundles. Carefully wrap 1 piece of bacon around each bundle, starting about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the tips. Secure the bacon-wrapped spears with a toothpick. Lay the bundles in a low-sided casserole dish.
In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, soy sauce, garlic salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the asparagus bundles. Transfer the dish to the oven and roast until the spears have begun to wilt and the bacon looks fully cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.
Fresh asparagus soup
1 pound fresh asparagus
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
11/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender. Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and puree until smooth.
Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook for only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
Stir the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Have questions? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.