“I look forward to the spring vegetables because the season is so short. Mushrooms, edible foraged herbs, wild leeks, early season asparagus.”
“The first thing to look at is the tip of the spear or the bud. It should be tightly closed and erect, not open and droopy. The hue of green asparagus should be fresh, bright, and with no hint of yellow. White asparagus should be a clear, even, creamy color. The stalk should feel firm and the overall look should be dewy. Although asparagus, like nearly everything else, is now marketed through most of the year, it is freshest in the spring, from April to early June.”
–Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)
Spring, like life, is short. Celebrate the sprouting of Spring with the recipes below for “All Things Asparagus”, the ultimate Spring vegetable.
For something sweet, enjoy a recipe for Drömmar Swedish “dream” cookies.
Fried Asparagus or “Asparagi fritti” (taken from The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan, 1973)
12 spears of crisp, fresh asparagus
2-4 tbsp. butter
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
Snap off the bottoms of the stems of the asparagus, leaving a stalk about 4 to 5 inches long, including the tips. Remove all the tiny leaves below the tips and wash the asparagus thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry with a towel.
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, dip the asparagus in the beaten egg, roll it in the bread crumbs, and slide it into the skillet, doing just a few stalks at a time so that they are not crowded in the pan. Spring with salt and pepper and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. When the asparagus has formed a crust on one side, turn it and when it has formed a crust on the other side, transfer with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve immediately. Serve immediately and Bon Appetito!
Cream of Asparagus Soup (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, 1982)
4 cups chopped yellow onions
8 tbsp. sweet butter
2 quarts Chicken Stock
2 pounds asparagus
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt butter in a large pot and simmer the onions until very soft and golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, trim the tips from the asparagus and reserve. Cut about 1 inch from the butt ends of the asparagus spears; remove the rough woody ends. Chop spears into 1/2-inch pieces and drop into the boiling chicken stock, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until asparagus is very soft.
Purée soup in blender and return the puree to the pot, add the reserved asparagus tips, and simmer until they are tender but still firm, 5 – 10 minutes. Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper.
Asparagus En Croute (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook)
12 slices good quality white sandwich bread
1/2 pound Jarlsberg or other Swiss-type cheese
1/2 cup prepared Dijon-style mustard
12 asparagus spears, cooked
4 tbsp. melted sweet butter
Roll slices of bread as thin as possible with a rolling pin; trim crusts. You will have pieces of bread 3-3 & 1/2 inches square.
Lay squares out on a work surface and cover with a damp towel for 10 minutes.
Cut cheese into fingers, more or less the size of the asparagus spears.
Spread each bread square evenly with mustard. Lay an asparagus spear and a strip of cheese on each bread square and roll up. Place seam side down on a buttered baking sheet.
Brush rolls with melted butter. Bake in the upper third of a 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Asparagus Champagne Risotto (adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis, 2007)
3 cups chicken broth
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice or medium-grain rice
3/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken broth for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken broth at a low simmer.
In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the champagne and simmer until the champagne has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat.
Gently stir in the asparagus, the remaining tablespoon of butter, the Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Drömmar (Dream Cookies) (taken from the Wall Street Journal, March 2016)
7 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/3 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp. baker’s ammonia (can substitute 1/2 tsp. baking powder plus 1/2 tsp. baking soda)
Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light in color, about 5 minutes. Sift flour and baker’s ammonia into bowl. Beat again until just fully combined, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to over beat.
Shape dough into 20 balls and place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet or lightly greased sheet. Bake at 350 degree F until cookies puff and crisp but do not color, about 15 minutes. The cookies should have no, or very little, coloration and should crack slightly during cooking. Remove cookies from oven and let cool completely before eating.