Special of the Day: Spotlight on Asparagus for Spring!

28 Apr Special of the Day: Spotlight on Asparagus for Spring!

Asparagus, Brie and Chive Tart

Asparagus, Brie and Chive Tart

           Ah…spring. Hallelujah! March 20th marks the first day of spring, and what a welcome sigh of relief after having endured the world’s  l o n g e s t   winter.

            One of my favorite parts of spring is the emergence of tender sweet seasonal vegetables in the produce department of the grocery store. This week’s star of the show is asparagus, best enjoyed in the spring picked as thin, delicate stalks, snapped off and barely blanched for optimal flavor. Asparagus is best from February through June, so the time is right for picking up some from your favorite market now.

Ranking high in the superfood category for its long list of nutritional benefits, asparagus is a good source of fiber and folate as well as vitamins A, C, E and vitamin K.  Additionally, asparagus contains a compound that acts as a detoxifier, helping to protect your body from some types of cancer. Eating antioxidant-rich asparagus can slow the aging process and also prevent cognitive decline. Asparagus acts as a natural diuretic, ridding your body of excess salts, too.

One of the best ways to cook asparagus, in my opinion, is to blanch it, cooking it briefly in salted simmering water and then immediately immersing it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and retain the vegetable’s beautiful bright green color. The worst thing you can do to asparagus, like a lot of foods, is to overcook it. Remember to snap the tough woody inedible ends off before blanching the tender tips.

Once you’ve blanched it, it’s ready to enjoy- on its own with a drizzle of melted butter, tossed in a light lemony pasta salad, arranged artfully in a quiche or bathed in blender Hollandaise sauce.

Blanch a bunch or two of asparagus this week and showcase it in this week’s Special of the Day: Spotlight on Asparagus and super simple seasonal recipes for Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Shallots, Asparagus, Brie and Chie Tart or Tender Crisp Asparagus with Blender Hollandaise.  Enjoy!

Orzo Salad with Proscuitto Ribbons, Roasted Asparagus Tips and Shaved Parmesan

Orzo Salad with Proscuitto Ribbons, Roasted Asparagus Tips and Shaved Parmesan

Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Shallots

Recipe by Sydne George

2 cups cooked orzo pasta (cook according to package direc­tions), drained

1 cup asparagus tips

¾ cup prosciutto, sliced into thin strips

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. shallots, minced

1 tsp. honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 large butter lettuce leaves

Freshly grated lemon peel

In a pot of simmering water, cook asparagus for six minutes to blanch.

Immediately drain into strain­er. Cover with ice cubes to stop further cooking and retain bright green color.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt and pepper.

Add cooked orzo, blanched asparagus tips and prosciutto strips.

Toss to combine.

Serve in butter lettuce leaves.

Garnish with lemon peel.

Enjoy!

Tender crisp asparagus with Hollandaise
Tender crisp asparagus with Hollandaise

Tender Crisp Asparagus with Blender Hollandaise

Recipe by Sydne George

(serves four)

1 bunch tender spring asparagus, trimmed

Fill a medium saucepan ¾ full of water. Add ½ tsp. salt and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add asparagus to simmering water and cook just until crisp tender, about 6 minutes. Drain into colander.

While asparagus is cooking, make the Blender Hollandaise Sauce.

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Recipe by Sydne George

(makes about ¾ cup)

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup melted butter

Dash salt

Add egg yolks to the blender and blend until thick. Add lemon juice and blend. Slowly add melted butter and blend until thickened. Serve over tender crisp asparagus. Enjoy!

Asparagus, Brie and Chive Tart

Asparagus, Brie and Chive Tart

Asparagus, Brie and Chive Tart

Recipe by Sydne George

(makes one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus, stalks washed and trimmed to about 4 inches

For the crust:

2 cups flour

¾ cup oil

¼ cup cold water

½ teaspoon salt

For the filling:

2 eggs

¾ cup milk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup brie, trimmed and cut in 2 inch strips

2 teaspoons freshly snipped chives

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Blanch trimmed asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Immediately drain into a colander filled with ice to stop the cooking.
  3. While the asparagus is cooking, make the crust. Combine crust ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  4. Form dough into a ball and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper making a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer dough into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges.
  5. Arrange blanched asparagus in prepared crust, creating a spoked wheel pattern with asparagus tips pointing outward.
  6. Fit brie slices in between asparagus spears.
  7. Whisk together filling ingredients and fill tart shell, being careful not to drown the asparagus. (The asparagus won’t be visible if you cover it with filling.)
  8. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until brie is golden brown and filling is set.
  9. Let cool slightly. Slice and serve warm with chive blossoms, if desired.

Enjoy!

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the Day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

 

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