28 March 2023
For many people asparagus is a favorite springtime vegetable. Preparations are versatile since it can be steamed, roasted, grilled or broiled. It can even be dried or pickled. It will pair well with nutmeg, and honey and lemon juice will give it some sparkle. If you like to use herbs try rosemary, basil, dill, Mediterranean oregano, or cilantro.
You will notice that most recipes call for blanching the asparagus first. Without blanching oftentimes the exterior will cook or char but the core will still be raw. It also gives them a healthy start on the cooking or baking process.
Blanching moves along fairly quickly so be sure to have all your prep ready to go. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Bring about an inch of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Add the asparagus, cover and cook only about three or four minutes until it is tender but still crisp and while it is still a bright green. Remove it from the boiling water and plunge it into the ice water you have waiting. This will help it retain its cheery green color.
Ham and Asparagus Strata
- 1 loaf Italian or French bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, about 8 cups total
- 4 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 1/4 cups cream
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon or thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed, spears cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons softened butter to coat the baking dish
- 6 ounces ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, about 2 cups
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 cup, packed
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly toast the bread cubes
- Whisk together egg, milk, cream, herbs, salt and pepper
- Blanch the asparagus
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350
- Butter the inside of an 8 X 11 X 2 ¼ inch casserole dish
- Place half the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish
- Add half the ham cubes
- Add half the asparagus
- Add half the Gruyere cheese
- Add half the egg mixture
- Repeat for a second layer
- Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving
Spring Minestrone Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 medium green onions
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1 pound potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 pound artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
- 1 cup peas
- 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 cups greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc), sliced into thin ribbons
- Up to 1/4 cup pesto
- Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
- Chop green onions and separate the white and light green parts from the green tops. Add garlic to the white parts of the green onions. Reserve the chopped tops of green onion.
- Scrub potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.
- Either trim fresh artichokes down to their hearts and chop the hearts, or chop defrosted frozen artichoke hearts.
- Saute onions and garlic. Add potatoes.
- Add tomatoes, including liquid, and stock.
- Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low for 10 minutes.
- Add artichokes (if using fresh) and cook for about five minutes.
- Add chickpeas and green peas and cook for another five minutes
- Add asparagus and artichokes (if using frozen). Cook 2 minutes.
- Add greens and green parts of green onions.
- Turn off heat and add pesto and season with salt and pepper if necessary
- Serve with grated cheese