Quick & Easy|
By Beverly Barbour
Don't spare the asparagus
Those tasty little spears that bravely face the cold winds of spring just go on into summer, producing and producing. When they grow tired of working so hard and stop producing, there is always frozen asparagus resting in some freezer, just waiting to leap into a hot pan.
There are lots of good things to do with the happy plant besides steaming it for two minutes and squeezing lemon juice on it before it hits the tongue (although that alone is a quick and easy joy to dine upon. Other vegetables, such as chopped broccoli, cauliflower, or hearts of artichoke can be substituted for asparagus in most recipes.
Herein are other ideas to plant in your recipe file.
Fluffy Omelet with Asparagus
This makes an elegant lunch or a hefty breakfast/brunch.
Bring 1 quart water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and just tender when pierced, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix egg yolks, 1 1/4 cups cheese, milk, flour, cayenne and salt until well blended. Stir in asparagus. In an oven-proof frying pan melt butter and smooth over pan to coat. Pour in egg mixture and smooth top with spatula. Cook until edges appear set and dry and bottom is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Place pan in oven and broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until omelet is puffed, set and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese; broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 1 minute longer. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.
Asparagus & Shrimp Stir-Fry
Serve this over rice or pasta, or make crisp, tender noodle pillows.
Snap tough stem ends from asparagus. Cut spears at 45 degree angle into 1/2-inch slices. Mix broth, soy sauce, cornstarch and pepper. Set wok or heavy frying pan over high heat. When hot, add oil, ginger and garlic; stir until garlic begins to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in asparagus and add 3 tablespoons water; cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until asparagus is bright green. Add shrimp and stir, uncovered, until opaque in center of thickest part, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir broth mixture and add to pan; stir until sauce boils and thickens. Add salt to taste. Makes 4 servings.
Chinese cooks fry bundles of cooked wheat noodles in hot oil to create crisp-chewy beds for stir-fries. You can get the same effect without the mess of frying by coating cooked noodles with a little vegetable oil and crisping them in the oven.
12 ounces dried thin Asian wheat noodles or dried vermicelli pasta
Preheat oven to 425 F. Add noodles or vermicelli to rapidly boiling water, stirring to separate. Cook until barely tender to bite. Drain and return to pan; mix with sesame oil and salt. Divide noodles into 4 equal portions; set each mound about 2 inches apart on nonstick baking pans. Pat into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Bake until most of surface is crisp and browned, 15 to 20 minutes (switch pan positions after 10 minutes). Makes 4 pillows.
This dish is a very inexpensive entree using any vegetable that you have on hand. Peas, artichoke hearts, or baby artichokes, bits of broccoli, sugar snaps, even tender bits of carrot can be used alone or with other vegetables.
3 cups rice, Arborio preferred
Break off hard ends of asparagus stems. Cut tips off and set aside; dice remaining stems. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt half of the butter. Add diced asparagus and scallions; gently sauté for 3 to 4 minutes--do not brown scallions. Add rice and sauté for another 4 to 5 minutes, constantly stirring and coating rice until translucent. Increase heat to medium. Add broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring until almost absorbed. Rice should not be too soft but you should not taste starch. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water to a boil and add asparagus tips. Cook 4 minutes and drain. Stir asparagus into rice. Add mint, basil, parmesan, remaining butter, salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.
Butter Roasted Asparagus
Cooked in butter on top of the range or grill. Simply nummy.
Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus in a single layer. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until butter sizzles. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and rotate spears as they cook, so that they brown slightly on all sides. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with a few drops of lemon juice. Heat onto warm platter and sprinkle with chervil or parsley. Makes 4 servings.
Spearing asparagus is a tasty sport!