Asparagus, the wonder vegetable

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Asparagus is delicious and versatile. Packed with nutrients, it is also an antioxidant.

There are many different ways to prepare it, but the most important thing to remember in cooking asparagus is not to overcook it. You want it tender enough to chew, but not limp and soggy.

I hope you’ll try these recipes and that your family enjoys them as much as mine does.

Asparagus Rollups

16 fresh asparagus, trimmed

16 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

2 tbsp. minced chives

1/4 c. butter, melted

3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring 1/2 in. of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cover and boil for three minutes. Drain and immediately place asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Combine the cream cheese, bacon and chives; spread one tablespoonful on each slice of bread. Top with an asparagus spear. Roll up tightly; place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cut roll-ups in half. Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 32 appetizers.


Asparagus Casserole

1 tbsp. vegetable oil, for sautéing

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, rough ends removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 eggs

1 c. heavy cream

2 tbsp. freshly chopped dill leaves

1 c. grated Gruyere cheese

1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and garlic; sauté until translucent and fragrant and season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus and sauté until just tender. Remove from heat and Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, dill and cheeses.

In a separate bowl, add panko, paprika and butter. Mix well to combine.

Place asparagus in casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus and top with the panko, spreading evenly.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until casserole is set and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cheddar Asparagus Casserole

Two bunches fresh asparagus

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 c. milk

Pinch salt

5 oz. Cheddar, grated

4 hard-boiled eggs

1/2 c. saltine cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the asparagus to a large pot of boiling water, keeping the bundles together with rubber bands or string. Cook for a couple of minutes; the asparagus should be bright green and still crunchy. Take the bundles out of the water and slice off the tough asparagus ends. Drop the trimmed ends back in the boiling water and lower to simmer.

Drop asparagus into bowl of ice water to stop cooking process. Remove and drain. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook for one minute, then whisk in the milk and one cup of the asparagus cooking liquid. Add the salt and continue cooking until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. Add the grated Cheddar and cook, stirring, until melted, about one minute.

Arrange the asparagus in the bottom of a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish, alternating the stem ends so each serving includes both heads and stems. Thinly slice the hard-boiled eggs and arrange them over the asparagus. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggs and asparagus and sprinkle with the cracker crumbs. Bake until lightly browned and bubbles appear around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Asparagus Soup

3 lbs. fresh asparagus, rinsed

8 c. chicken stock

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 c. minced shallots

1 c. minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1/2 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Cut the tips of the asparagus into 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Remove the woody stem ends and set aside. Cut the tender part of the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.

Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and drop into an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Set the stock aside. In a medium sized stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the scent is fully released, about one minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about three minutes.

If the soup is to be served later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.