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Cooking with spears of green

April 12, 2019
By Laura Carlson - Farm News staff writer ( , Farm News


Spring has arrived and the lawns are turning green, buds emerging on trees, and good cooks turn to new ideas from produce available at local grocery stores and farmers markets.

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Asparagus compliments just about any meal and will be readily available this spring.

Just as holiday menus feature recipes often prepared once a year for special family dinners, fresh asparagus recipes are prepared in the spring when a few hearty souls scour gardens for the tall, green vegetable. I like to be prepared with recipes when a neighbor shares a baggie of freshly-picked asparagus.

My mom, Colleen Harrison prepares a cream of asparagus soup. This soup is extra special for our family as she only prepares it during the spring season when asparagus is ready in Iowa.

"It must be fresh asparagus," Harrison said. "That makes it even more delicious. This was my mom's favorite soup. When I make this soup, I think of her."

This is labor intensive to cut into small pieces, but so delicious and worth the extra effort.

Cream of asparagus soup

4 cups fresh asparagus (1/4-inch pieces of the tender parts)

2 cups water, divided

1/4 finely chopped green onions or 1 teaspoon onion powder

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (low sodium version)

Dash pepper

4 cups whole or 2 percent milk (whole makes it creamier)

1 tablespoon chicken broth base (powder)

Boil asparagus bites in 1 cup of water until crisp tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Add the chicken broth base powder to the milk in a cup.

In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until tender and translucent (Grandma said you can read the newspaper through the properly cooked onion slice). Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until mixture resembles a paste. Gradually stir in the milk mixture into the paste in saucepan. Add the reserved asparagus water and stir until thickened over medium low heat.

If soup is too thick, add the second cup of water a little at a time, stirring constantly. Mixture will bubble and be slightly green (from the water). Stir in the asparagus bites and heat through. If a smooth texture is desired, emulsify the hot soup to a pure creamy texture carefully. Serve with homemade bread and butter.

Makes 5 cups soup (serves 4)

Quick 'n easy quiche

My friend Gayle Naglak prepares a delicious quiche for brunches and other special events.

"It's so simple, anyone can make it," she said.

3 eggs

1/2 cup dry biscuit mix

1/4 cup melted butter

1 1/2 cups milk (skim, 1 percent, 2 percent or whole)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

1 cup grated cheese, your choice

1/2 cup diced ham

1/2 cup diced, steamed asparagus pieces

Steam asparagus until crisp tender. Drain well and pat dry on flour sack or paper towels. Let sit to drain while mixing up the rest of ingredients. (Try to make the asparagus as dry as possible or it will thin the egg mixture.) Mix eggs, biscuit mix, butter, milk and seasonings thoroughly in a large bowl. Pour mixture into well-greased 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the grated cheese, ham, and asparagus pieces on top and press gently into the egg mixture with back of spoon. Bake quiche at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set in middle.

Remove from oven and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

Serves 4-6 with a brunch buffet

Amelia's herb butter

Steamed asparagus with herbed butter is a favorite, according to Amelia Des Sota, of rural Dallas County.

"When I'm pressed for time, which I always am during the kid's tennis season, I steam the asparagus the boys pick and serve it with this simple butter," she said. "I vary the herbs I add with what I have on hand, but with this butter melting over the hot asparagus, this is always a perfect side dish. I usually mix up extra batches of butter and freeze them in rolls ahead of time. This butter is also great on grilled corn on the cob which, of course, is picked during the baseball season.

1 stick butter, softened

1/3 cup fresh, finely chopped herbs of your choice (chives, rosemary, parsley)

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1 tablespoons finely minced garlic (optional)

Grated pepper and sea salt

Mix the softened butter, herbs, cheese and garlic with seasonings in a small bowl. Refrigerate for at least one hour. You can make a butter log with wax paper rolled tightly. Cool until the butter log is firm. Slice into tablespoon size servings. Or place the mixture in a pretty bowl to serve.

Asparagus vinaigrette

This asparagus salad recipe comes from Bethlehem Lutheran Church's cook book in Cherokee and features members' recipes. While out of print, this cook book is battered and well worn by many Cherokee County cooks. Lois Hobson, of Cherokee, shared this simple and tasty salad.

24 asparagus spears

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon basil

Dash pepper

Dash white sugar

Use on the tender parts of the asparagus. Cover with 1 inch water in saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour the rest of the ingredients over the asparagus and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Some cooks make an exception to the fresh rule and use frozen asparagus. This is one of my favorite dishes to serve with baked chicken or fish.

Roasted asparagus

Place long stems of fresh or frozen asparagus on a cooking sheet pre-sprayed with olive oil. Lightly spritz the oil onto the stems. Grind cracked pepper and sprinkle pink sea salt over vegetables. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-20 minutes until asparagus is tender.

Optional: sprinkle dried oregano, garlic, onion powder or a mixture of spices and herbs for variety.



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