Ingredient SpotLight

It's spring in North America and that means that some of my favorite fruits and vegetables are filling markets and roadside stands everywhere. Among my favorites is asparagus.

I have to admit that while I love to cook and eat it, I didn't know a lot about it. Once, many years ago, I thought it would be cool to grow it in my garden. That was, until I found out that I'd have to coddle it for about three years before I would have any fresh garden asparagus on my table! (I'm not nearly as patient as I'd like to be!)

A member of the lily family, asparagus is actually the springtime version of a fern. Think that's strange? It's not the only budding fern we eat! Folks in cold weather climates wait anxiously each spring for fiddlehead ferns to give up themselves to a wide variety of culinary endeavors as well! Asparagus is widely available for about a month and a half in spring and early summer. While you can find it afterwards, its quality and quantity are both diminished ... not unlike tomatoes in the middle of winter. So, if you find yourself craving asparagus at other times of the year, seek out quick frozen options that will work well in the recipes below. For crisp-tender steamed or sweet roasted asparagus, you'll want to wait for the fresh stuff and enjoy it while you can! For more information and, of course, recipes using asparagus, check out the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board website. To start you out, I've included two simple recipes that showcase this seasonal star.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

This soup makes a lovely light meal when paired with a salad and some crusty bread.
  • 2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 8 c. chicken broth
  • 2 onions -- diced
  • 1 large russet potato -- peeled and diced
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Clean the asparagus by snapping off the base of the stems. Then blanch the asparagus in boiling hot water for 30 seconds and remove. Slice the asparagus tips into 1/2 inch pieces and reserve. Take the remaining blanched asparagus and roughly chop and set aside.

In a large stock pot, combine the butter with the diced onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sweat the onions over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion turns clear and is cooked through. Next add 1/2 cup of water and the 1/3 cup of flour to the onion and combine well. Add the 8 cups of chicken stock, the peeled and diced potato and the rough cut asparagus pieces and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 45 minutes. Next add the heavy whipping cream and puree the soup. If you have a stick blender, simply place the blender in the soup pot and puree until smooth. If you do not have one, remove the soup from the stove and let sit for an hour to let it cool. Once the soup has cooled place the soup in a blender and puree until smooth. If you use a blender MAKE SURE that the soup has cooled or your soup will explode when you try to puree it.

Once the soup has been pureed return it to the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if needed with salt and pepper.

To serve, simply pour the soup into a cup or bowl and garnish with the reserved asparagus tips.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 1 hour

Easy Asparagus Refrigerator Pie

Refrigerator pie is also known as "quiche" in other circles. Whatever you call it, it's yummy!
  • 1 pie crust -- homemade or frozen
  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 T. cream
  • 5 T. milk
  • 1 c. freshly grated hard cheese -- parmesan or cheddar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the pie crust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights to prevent the pastry from rising. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the crust and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, leaving the tips 2-inches long, discarding any hard parts. Boil the asparagus for 5-7 minutes in salted water, drain and set aside.

Mix the eggs, cream, milk, 2/3 cup of the grated cheese and the salt and pepper together. Place the asparagus into the baked crust and pour the egg mixture over it, adding the remaining cheese on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 1 hour

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