Know your vitamin alphabet with asparagus

This vegetable that’s now in season can add a tasty punch of nutrition to everyday dishes

    A sure sign of the season is the appearance of fresh asparagus in local grocery stores and gardens.
    This tasty vegetable is low in calories and a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
    It’s also a good source of dietary fiber.
    When picking asparagus, select firm, straight, smooth, rich green stalks with tightly closed tips.
    The tough, woody ends will snap off with a little pressure. Some people prefer to cut off less of the stalk and instead peel the tough skin off the lower part of the stems. These trimmings can be blanched, frozen and used later in stocks or soups.
    Remember to wash asparagus well, because dirt and sand often collect on the bottom of the stalks.
    To store fresh asparagus, clean it, trim the stem by about 1/4 inch and pat it dry. Wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends or stand asparagus in about two inches of water. Refrigerate and use it within two or three days.
    Asparagus is virtually always cooked. It’s usually boiled or steamed, but can also be microwaved, stir fried or roasted.
    Try serving asparagus with lemon and butter, tossed with Parmesan cheese or a creamy pasta, or marinated and served warm or cold in a salad.
    To roast asparagus, place 1 pound of thin spears on a baking sheet, then drizzle it with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Toss the asparagus to coat it with the oil, then arrange it in a single layer. Spread 1 ounce of shaved Parmesan cheese over the top, season with freshly ground black pepper and bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a 450-degree oven, until the cheese is melted and the asparagus is tender but crisp. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and serve.
    Following are a few asparagus recipes from and

Spring Asparagus Salad With Israeli Cous Cous

1 to 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups dry Israeli cous cous, uncooked, or orzo, quinoa, freekah or regular cous cous
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese, optional
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, optional
1/2 cup dill or Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tarragon, optional
3 scallions, sliced at a diagonal
Zest from one lemon
For dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

    Trim tough ends of the asparagus. Lay asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with one or two tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and cracked pepper and half the lemon zest. Roast in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until just tender. Cut into bite size pieces.
    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Israeli cous cous and cook until al dente.
    In a small bowl, stir dressing ingredients together.
    Drain cous cous and place in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing, olives, asparagus, feta, pine nuts, fresh herbs and remaining lemon zest. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to your liking.
    Serve warm, or chill and serve as a salad. If serving chilled, taste before serving and adjust salt, lemon and olive oil.


Fresh Pea and Ricotta Tartines With Spring Vegetables

4 slices bread, 1/2-inch thick and toasted
1/2 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup skim ricotta
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
4 to 6 tender asparagus stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 green onions, white parts sliced into thin strips
Handful fresh parsley, watercress leaves or pea shoots

    In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup peas, ricotta and lemon juice until blended but still a bit chunky. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread on toasted bread and top with the remaining peas, asparagus, onion and herbs. Serve immediately.
    If you prefer to cook the pea and asparagus topping, do not cook the peas in the ricotta spread. Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the asparagus and the peas for 30 to 60 seconds until just tender.


Garlic Butter Asparagus Pasta

1 cup dry orzo
1 pound fresh asparagus, tips only
4 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Fresh ground pepper
Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

    Prepare orzo according to package directions, adding asparagus tips during the last two minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and drain.
    Place butter in a skillet and melt over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook four to five minutes, until lightly browned, stirring very frequently. Do not burn the garlic.
    Add orzo and asparagus to the skillet, then stir in cheese, milk, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook one minute, until heated through. Remove from heat. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.


Five Ingredient Bacon Asparagus Pasta

1/2 pound uncooked pasta
1/2 pound uncooked bacon, diced
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, ends trimmed cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated or flaked Parmesan cheese

    Cook pasta in a large pot of generously-salted water according to package instructions until al dente.
    Place bacon in a medium saute pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    Add asparagus to the pan and saute in the bacon grease for five to six minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and set aside with the bacon. Slowly add white wine to the pan and scrape the pan with a spoon to deglaze. Continue cooking five minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half.
    Drain pasta, then add pasta, asparagus, bacon and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and toss until combined. Sprinkle pasta with remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
    If the pasta seems too dry, add 1/4 cup pasta water after adding in the asparagus and bacon and toss to combine.


Springtime Asparagus Soup

For soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, greens removed, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
For garnish:
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Reserved asparagus tips
Heavy cream, optional

    Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add leeks and saute about five minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent.  Do not allow leeks to brown.
    Add white wine and simmer until it is almost entirely evaporated. Add the chopped asparagus, reserving tips, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until asparagus is very tender.
    Transfer soup to a high-speed blender and puree until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot and return to low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with cayenne pepper and lime juice.
    To make garnish, heat oil over medium-high heat in a small saute pan. Add asparagus tips and saute two to three minutes, until caramelized and just fork tender.  Season with salt and pepper.
    Serve soup, garnishing with sauteed asparagus tips and a small drizzle of heavy cream.

Grilled Asparagus

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
For serving:
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Squeeze lemon juice

    Brush grill grates with a light coating of canola oil and heat to high.
    Wash and pat dry trimmed asparagus. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.Arrange asparagus spears on a grill over direct heat or a grill pan over high heat.
    Grill three to four minutes until nicely marked. Flip and grill another three to four minutes, until fork-tender.
    Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Blackened Shrimp, Asparagus and Avocado Salad With Lemon Pepper Yogurt Dressing

1 pound raw peeled large shrimp, tails removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 to1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sweet or smokey paprika
2 bunches of asparagus, halved
1 teaspoon olive oil
For salad:
4 cups lettuce leaves, washed
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 handful fresh basil leaves
For dressing:
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
2 tablespoons water or olive oil

    In a shallow bowl, combine shrimp with spices, rubbing until shrimp is evenly coated. Heat a large pan or skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Saute shrimp and asparagus about five minutes, turning occasionally, until the shrimp and asparagus have started to change color and are just cooked.
    Combine lettuce leaves, avocado, onion slices and basil in a salad bowl. Place shrimp and avocado on the top.
    Combine yogurt with the lemon pepper, lemon juice, water and salt. Mix well to combine. Drizzle salad with dressing.


Pan Fried Asparagus With Poached Eggs Bruschetta

1 egg
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
1 bunch asparagus spears, cut into thirds
1 thin slice bacon, trimmed of rind and all visible fat, diced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 piece of bread
1/2 tablespoon balsamic glaze

    Fill a small frying pan halfway with water and vinegar. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a gentle simmer, then crack the egg close the water’s surface and drop it in gently. Occasionally spoon simmering water over the yolk.
    While the egg is poaching, place asparagus, bacon and tomatoes in another pan, and cook until tomatoes are soft and asparagus is a vibrant green. Remove from heat.
    Toast bread when eggs are just about cooked to your liking.
    Once the eggs are done, drain the water and set aside.
    Top the toast with the pan-fried asparagus mix and top with egg. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic glaze.


Lemon Parmesan Salmon and Asparagus Foil Packs

4 salmon fillets, skin on or off
1 pound asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup lemon juice or juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon minced garlic or 4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped Salt
2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
For serving:
Parsley to garnish
Lemon wedges

    Place each salmon fillet in the center of a 12-by-18-inch piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil. Divide asparagus into four equal portions and arrange next to the salmon.
    In a small bowl, mix together melted butter, lemon juice, garlic and parsley. Pour evenly over each piece of salmon and asparagus, then season with salt and pepper and top with Parmesan cheese.
    Tent with foil and create a foil packet by tightly sealing the edges to prevent the butter from leaking.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, until cooked to desired doneness. For a crispy top, broil one to two minutes more, until cheese is golden.
    Or grill, covered, over medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
    Serve with fresh lemon wedges and garnish with extra parsley.


Lemon Garlic Butter Chicken Thighs With Asparagus

6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on or off
Pinch salt
Cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme or herb of choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic, crushed, or 1-1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, thinly sliced
5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 to 3 bunches of asparagus, tough ends removed

    Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper and dried thyme.
    Heat a 13 to 14-inch cast iron skillet or heavy oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil. Sear thighs four to five minutes, skin-side down, until golden and crisp. Flip chicken and sear on the other side for five minutes.
    Melt butter in the pan. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Pour in lemon juice and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves from two sprigs. Place another two sprigs around the chicken.
    Transfer skillet to a 400-degree oven and cook 25 to 30 minutes, adding asparagus during the last 12 minutes, until cooked through.
    Garnish with lemon slices and leaves from the remaining sprig of thyme. Serve immediately.


Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus

1 pound asparagus spears, tough ends removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic or 4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1-1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

    Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
    In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the asparagus and toss to evenly coat. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until asparagus color is vibrant and spears are just beginning to get tender.
    Remove from oven, top with mozzarella cheese, return to oven and broil four to five minutes, until cheese melts and becomes golden.
    Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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