Posts tagged asparagus

Lettuce and Asparagus – an Abundance of Riches

Hmmmm… What to make with the asparagus….  There’s the lovely asparagus/salmon/pesto/tortellini dish… or a frittata with caramelized onions, asparagus and cheese…. or maybe I’ll pan roast it for a side dish…   You know what??  I have enough to do all three!  Yay!

Tortellini with salmon, asparagus, red and yellow peppers and pesto sauce.

Tortellini with salmon, asparagus, red and yellow peppers and pesto sauce.

Asparagus and caramelized onion frittata

Asparagus and caramelized onion frittata

Pan roasted...simple and delicious.

Pan roasted…simple and delicious.

I have also put out a call to neighbors to come get some lettuce.  It will lose its sweetness if it gets hot and it’s perfect now.

IMG_3357

This is the lettuce I wintered over in the cold frame. My transplants from the cellar are now ready to start picking and my first planting is up! Help!!

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Garlic Scapes and Pasta Primavera

Pigtail-like Garlic Scapes

Pigtail-like Garlic Scapes

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Yesterday I saw that my garlic had started sending up its scapes, those whimsical pigtails that eventually open as the garlic flowers.  These need to be removed if you want to achieve the maximum sized garlic head but don’t throw them on the compost pile.  They have a delicate garlic flavor perfect for stir fries and Pasta Primavera.

Curliques of Flavor, all good to eat.

Curliques of Flavor, all good to eat.

Pasta Primavera is all about seasonality (Primavera=Italian for Spring).  I still have asparagus and my edible podded peas (Sugar Snaps) are just beginning, so with the garlic scapes, I had enough  for the dish.  I like to add sweet red peppers for extra color.  You can make fresh vegetable pasta dishes all summer long.  The vegetables available seem to marry naturally and the combinations are limitless.  For example you might choose yellow squash, zucchini and green beans for July and cauliflower, peppers and cherry tomatoes for August.  I begin with a base of mushrooms and onion which I saute in olive oil while the pasta water is heating.  When the mushrooms and onions are done, I add about 1/4 tsp. of red pepper seeds.  When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the cut up fresh vegetables saving the most delicate for last and scoop them out just as they begin to soften.  Timing depends on the vegetable, the sugar snap peas take only 30 seconds, the asparagus tips about a minute and the garlic scapes, red peppers and asparagus stems maybe 2 minutes.  Green vegetables will turn bright green when they reach the right point.  When they are done, set them aside.  They will continue cooking, so if you left them in the pasta water a little too long, they might be overcooked.  In this case you should put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.  I like to use Capellini (Angel Hair) for this dish.

Vegetables, All Sliced and Ready

Vegetables, All Sliced and Ready

There are several options for sauces, the ingredients for which are added to the cooked mushroom/onion mixture and reduced to a sauce thickness.  Traditional is heavy cream    In midsummer when the tomatoes are burgeoning, a light fresh tomato sauce is nice but for these delicate spring vegetables I like to keep it light using chicken broth, white wine and a spoonful of the boiling pasta water.   Add the chosen sauce ingredients and reduce them while the pasta is cooking.  When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce mixture, turning to coat well, then add the vegetables.  Let them cook together a minute or two so the pasta takes up some of the sauce.  Fresh herbs sprinkled over the top complete the dish.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.  You can add meat if you wish; cubed chicken, ham or prosciutto go well (I used chopped sandwich ham this time as I had no prosciutto).  These are added when you cook the mushrooms.  This dish is quick and easy.  It can be completed in little more than the time it takes to boil the pasta water.

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Asparagus: Sometimes Simple is Best

Sometimes it is best to set aside complex recipes and let a vegetable be the shining star.  Even browned butter might distract you from the taste of the fresh asparagus.  This fact comes through to me when garden favorites are at their peak of perfection, no embellishment needed.  With our recent rains, my asparagus is lush and succulent so I prepared it in the simplest way possible.  If you have it in the garden, pick it just before you plan to cook it.  This rare treat is not available to everyone, so if you buy it, cut off the ends and stand it in water to freshen it for at least an hour before cooking.  I cooked it simply by boiling it in salted water.  I cut it crosswise in one inch pieces (diagonal is pretty but I didn’t bother) and set a pan of salted water to boil.  When it boiled, I put the asparagus in starting with the ends and thicker stalk pieces first.  When the water returned to a boil, I put in the rest of the stem pieces, and when the water returned to a boil again, the tender tips.  I let it boil gently for 2 minutes then drained it into a colander.  I melted a tablespoon of butter in the hot pan (this is for the two of us, use more for more people) and tossed the asparagus in the butter.  A bit of salt and Yum!

Bright green, glistening and delicious

Bright green, glistening and delicious

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Salmon & Asparagus with Tortellini

The finished dish

The finished dish

This easy recipe makes a dynamite one pot meal that showcases your fresh asparagus.  I adapted it from a flyer for the brand of tortellini they carry in our local stores.  The salmon can be cooked separately (grilled would be nice), but I like to do it in one pot as it’s less bother and quicker.  It’s a colorful dish as well, with the red and yellow peppers, and requires pesto (see earlier post- Freezing Pesto for Winter Use).

Tortellini with Salmon and Asparagus

(Serves 2)

  • 2 Salmon fillets (four ounces/person)
  • 12 oz. pkg. fresh cheese tortellini
  • 1 sweet red or yellow bell pepper, chopped (or both)
  • ½ C. pesto
  • 1 lb. Asparagus
  • ¼ C. white wine
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for the dish and the table

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and the chopped onion.  When the pot returns to the boil, add the salmon.  Boil for three minutes and add the asparagus and red pepper.  Meanwhile, mix the pesto with the wine and set aside. When the salmon flakes and the tortellini is al dente (this should happen simultaneously) drain into the contents of the pot into a colander.  Put the mixture into a large bowl and add the pesto/wine mixture and about a cup of Parmesan.  Mix gently until well combined and serve with additional cheese.

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Time to Clear Out the Asparagus Bed

All manured and ready to go

All manured and ready to go

Last year's stalks have given all their nutrition back to the plant and need to be cleared away.

Last year’s stalks have given all their nutrition back to the plant and need to be cleared away.

In just a few weeks those first tender spears will poke their noses out of the earth and asparagus season will be upon us.  My asparagus bed is a mass of tangled brown stalks and fronds.  I leave the stalks standing all winter to be sure every ounce of nutrient has been returned to the soil but now it’s time to clear it out and give the bed a good dose of manure.  My bed is small, two rows, 40 feet each and it doesn’t take too long.  The stems have softened underground and pull out easily.  The old growth goes onto the compost pile and I’m done.  After I finish I stop to pick some fresh kale to cook for dinner, still going strong in this mild winter.

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