Friday, May 15, 2009

Abundant Asparagus

They really should call it May Madness not March Madness. I don’t know if May is as crazy for you as it is for us, but let me tell you between baseball (x2), band practices & concerts, end of year activities, sixth grade graduation, birthdays, memorial day, out-of-town guests, and a traveling hubby things can get out of hand. Still there is so much to savor about this month – asparagus, the first fresh lettuce, lilacs blooming, warmer weather, and of course, Mother’s Day. So as I get ready to head in to school for Field Day and contemplate who-has-to-be-where-at-what-time to work their booths for the Family Fun Fest tonight, I thought I’d share some great recipes for asparagus since we are in the thick of asparagus season and it will be over before you know it.

We had this last night and wow- it was good. It was breakfast this morning too and it’ll probably be lunch!

Asparagus Quiche

2 teaspoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 eggs
1 ½ cups milk (I used whole milk– decadent!)
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (more if you like it)
Pinch of nutmeg (or less because nutmeg can get out of hand)
¾ cup shredded cheese (gruyere if you’re splurging, cheddar if you prefer)

1/2 to 1 cup asparagus, steamed and chopped in to 1/2 inch pieces (use more if you want)
1 pre-baked pie crust (easy, easy, easy to make from scratch so it’s not full of preservatives and stabilizers, see recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, stirring until golden.
3. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ½ cup cheese until blended. Fold in asparagus.
4. Spoon onion into bottom of baked pie shell. Pour the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup of cheese.
5. Bake until the top is golden and a knife inserted in to the center comes out clean (about 35 – 40 minutes).

I was reading a new cookbook this morning that said if you put a layer of cheese on top of your pie crust before you put in the filling it will help the crust stay crisp and flaky. So next time I’m going to try putting the cheese in first instead of mixing it in the filling.

Broiled Asparagus
This is one of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus – it’s easy, quick, and tastes divine.

fresh asparagus
olive oil spray
fresh grated lemon rind
fresh grated parmesan cheese

1. Lay asparagus out on a baking pan safe for broiling (I like to use my baking stone)
2. Spray with olive oil (or drizzle if you haven’t got a sprayer)
3. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste).
4. Sprinkle with grated fresh lemon rind and grated fresh parmesan cheese.
5. Broil for about 5 minutes (keep an eye on this, you don’t want to over cook).

These next two asparagus recipes come from Cooking Light Magazine. The first one I’ve made for several years and love and the second I’m planning on trying this week. (I know you could go find the recipe online but since I have dial-up, I always appreciate people who can cut and paste rather than just give the link!)

Creamy Rice with Asparagus

3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt, divided
3 cups (1 inch) sliced asparagus
1 ½ cup uncooked rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs
1 cup parmesan, divided
¼ cup chopped chives, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1. Bring water and ¼ teaspoon salt to boil. Add asparagus; cook 5 minutes. Remove asparagus with slotted spoon. Rinse under cold water; set aside.
2. Add rice and butter to cooking liquid, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until done. Set aside
3. Combine ¼ teaspoon salt and eggs in small bowl, stirring with whisk. Add ¾ cups cheese, 3 Tablespoons chives, basil, lemon rind, and pepper; stir well.
4. Stir egg mixture into hot rice. Stir in asparagus; cook rice mixture over low heat for one minute or until mixture is thoroughly heated.
5. Top with one tablespoon each of cheese and chives.

Yield: 4 servings
1 cup serving = 472 calories, 14.7 g fat, 3.1g fiber, 9 points

It’s very important to use fresh basil and actual lemon rind (not dried). I’ve left out the chives when I don’t have them and it doesn’t miss them too much.

Truffled Asparagus Crostini

24 slices French bread baguette
1 pound asparagus spears
2 ½ teaspoons truffle oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ Cup (2 ounces) grated Manchego cheese (the recipe says that if you don’t have Manchego – which I don’t and have never heard of – you can use parmigiano-reggiano cheese instead)

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet; broil 1 minute or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; turn over and broil 1 minute or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan,.
3. Fill a large skillet with water to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus; cook 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and plunge into ice water; drain. Chop asparagus to measure 2 cups. Place chopped asparagus in a bowl. Add oil, salt, and pepper; toss well to coat.
4. Top each bread slice with 1 rounded tablespoon asparagus mixture; place on baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over crostini. Broil 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt. Serve warm.

What to do with leftover asparagus?? If I have leftover asparagus I would never dream of putting in my compost. It’s delicious in scrambled eggs or tossed in to a stir fry. Never waste asparagus!

Basic Pie Crust
This recipe is from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook that my mom used. I think all mothers had this black and red plaid cookbook; it must have been a requirement. I think she used Crisco, but since I’m suspicious of Crisco, I use butter. Remember that the key to a light flaky crust is not to work the dough too much. To that end, I don’t roll out my dough. I put the pile of dough in the center of my pie plate and use my fingers to work the dough out to the edges. If you prefer to roll, no biggie, just don’t over do.

Single Crust
1 ½ Cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening with pastry blender till pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of mixture. Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat till all is moistened. Form in to a ball. After your crust is set in the pan (by pushing or rolling), prick the sides and bottom well with fork (unless you are baking pie crust and filling together).

For the quiche recipe you need to bake your crust first. I put a layer of aluminum foil over my crust and then pile on dried beans and bake. The weight of the beans help the crust keep its shape so it won’t puff up and deform. I’ve never seen this, but I’ve been told. As I look at the original recipe now, it doesn’t instruct you to do the bean trick, so maybe just pricking with the fork works too. I’ll have to try that and get back to you.

Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes.

Happy Asparagus Eating! Hey, if you've got a stellar asparagus recipe - pass it along please!

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