Asparagus

Val.inddSpringtime brings fresh asparagus, an important source of potassium, folic acid, vitamins C and B6, thiamine and many micronutrients. It is low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol and sodium. It can be stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to three days and, once cooked, can be stored for about three days. Try one of these recipes.

ASPARAGUS BRUSCHETTA

1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 2” pieces
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
Kosher salt
6 oz. ham or 4 oz. Prusciutto, finely chopped or ground in food processor
1 (10 oz.) French baguette, in 1/2” slices, grilled or toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat broiler. Bring a large saute pan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus and cook until tender crisp, about two minutes. Transfer asparagus to colander, refresh under cold running water to stop the cooking, and drain well. Set aside. Using fingers to hold the garlic, rub clove against one side of the toasted bread to flavor entire surface. Drizzle or brush with a bit of the olive oil. Arrange blanched asparagus on toasts, then divide the cheese and ham topping over the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Place bruschetta on baking sheet and broil just until cheese melts and begins to brown, about one – two minutes. Keep watch so as not to burn. Serve immediately. Serves 12 (three pieces per serving)

ASPARAGUS WITH ROMESCO SAUCE

3 1/3 c. prepared roasted red bell pepper
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil), drained, roughly chopped
1” slices of baguette
1/2 c. blanched, slivered almonds, toasted
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste
Olive oil, as needed
Water, as needed
Salt, as needed
Freshly ground pepper, as needed
About 5 lbs. asparagus, trimmed, blanched
In food processor, puree red pepper, tomato, baquette, almonds, garlic, vinegar, parsley and red pepper. With motor running drizzle in 1/3 cup  olive oil. If necessary thin with one Tbsp. water at a time until a thick sauce-like consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste; reserve. Brush three asparagus spears with oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until asparagus is lightly browned and tender-crisp. Arrange on serving plate and serve with 1/4 cup sauce on the side. 24 servings. (Cut down on ingredients to make less servings.)

ASPARAGUS, PAPAYA, SHRIMP AND PASTA

1 lb. asparagus
1 medium papaya, halved, seeded and peeled
1/3 c. light sour cream
1/4 c. papaya or mango nectar
1 1/2 Tbsp. bottled mango chutney
Peel of 1/2 lemon, grated
3 c. (6 oz.) cooked curly pasta (Fusilli, Rotelle) rinsed and drained
1/3 lb. small shelled and cooked shrimp
1/4 c. green onions
8 lettuce leaves
Trim or break off asparagus spears at tender point and rinse. In large skillet cook spears until crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain, rinse under cold water. Chill and set aside 12 spears; cut remaining spears into one inch pieces. Remove seeds and cut half of papaya into eight-12 thin, lengthwise slices; chill. Cut remaining half into bite-size pieces. In large bowl combine sour cream, nectar, chutney and lemon peel. Add cooled pasta, mix well. Stir in asparagus and papaya pieces, shrimp and green onions. Chill briefly. To serve spoon pasta mixture on lettuce leaves and arrange papaya and aspragus spears. Garnish with lemon twists or wedges and fresh mint if desired. Four servings.

ASPARAGUS WITH PENNE

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1/2 c. olive oil
3 carrots, cut in julienne strips
6 green onions, white and green portion, sliced diagonally
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 lb. Penne, boiled and drained
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. pine nuts or slivered almonds
Boil, steam or bake asparagus until crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to absorbent paper. Pat stalks dry and cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths. Heat 3 Tbsp. of oil in large skillet. Add carrots and onions and toss to coat. Stir over medium heat until onions are limp. Add remaining oil, lemon juice, parsley and basil. Add pasta and toss to coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter asparagus and nuts over mixture and toss to combine. Stir over low heat until warmed through, then serve. Serves six.

ASPARAGUS PECAN SALAD

24 asparagus spears, fresh, medium-sized
6 Tbsp. mayonnaise
6 lettuce leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
Bring large pot of water to boil. Wash asparagus and snap off tough bottoms of stems. When water is boiling add asparagus and let water return to a boil. Cook about three minutes until asparagus is crisp but tender. Remove, run under cold water and refrigerate to chill. At serving time line six plates with lettuce and arrange 4 spears on each. Top salads with one Tbsp. mayonnaise and sprinkle with one tsp. chopped pecans. Six servings.

BUTTER MAPLE SAUSAGE CASSEROLE

2 cans butter flake crescent rolls
9 eggs
1 pkg. maple sausage
2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
Brown and crumble sausage in skillet. Spray nonstick spray in 9-inch x 13-inch casserole dish. Line dish with one package of rolls. Beat eggs in separate bowl. On top of layer of rolls, layer sausage, cheese and then beaten eggs over top. Top with second package of rolls. Bake at 350° for 35-45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve with syrup if desired. 8 servings.

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