Much Ado About Asparagus!


Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

The award for the harbinger of spring, without a doubt, goes to asparagus! We are just beginning to see those stalky bunches at our farmers markets. Quite possibly your own garden has a few shoots reaching skyward. Once you taste the young, fresh local asparagus you’ll never go back to imported supermarket version.

Treatments for asparagus abound so try as many as you can before our fleeting verdant friend has finished its reign. This season I am highly promoting the simply elegant technique of oven (or grill) roasting-glazed with a shine of olive oil, then sprinkled with a blanket of freshly grated pungent cheese. Many of the recipes call for Parmesan-Reggiano, but I go for Manchego. Bake for 10-15 minutes and you have gems to use in most any recipe.

Asparagus Flan

Serves 6



Asparagus Flan says springtime with a capital S!

  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon leaves
  • dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 teaspoon olive oil, for drizzling over top
  • cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Cut off the asparagus  tips and reserve for garnish. Slice remaining asparagus into 1″ pieces, add to water, simmer for 5 minutes until soft. Transfer to a food processor, reserving cooking water. Process, then add cream, eggs, flour, tarragon, nutmeg, salt and pepper with processor still running and puree until smooth.

Return the asparagus water to boil, add tips, cook for 1 minute. Drain, set aside.

Grease 6 ramekins and put in a roasting pan filled hot water reaching to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Pour asparagus mixture into ramekins filling 3/4 full.

Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Serve hot garnished with asparagus tips. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more fresh black pepper.

Quick Chicken Sauté with Asparagus, Roasted Bells & Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves 2

You won’t believe how much flavor the pan sauce (with a dab of butter) adds to such a carefree recipe. Before the tomato season, use roasted bell peppers to give the boost of flavor and color. In summer, use Sweet 100 tomatoes, cut in half.

  • 2 medium-size boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (12 ounces total), cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 thin asparagus spears cut into 2-inch pieces, for thicker split in half lengthwise first
  • About 3/4 cup roasted bell peppers, drained and cut into strips
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons water or homemade chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh Cuban oregano or fresh basil

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is golden brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; add sliced roasted bell peppers.

Heat another 1 tablespoon oil in the pan and add the chicken. When the underside of the chicken has turned deep golden brown, (about 1 minute), flip. Turn occasionally for even browning until almost cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken to the bowl of vegetables.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan. Add the garlic, cooking until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water or broth, lemon juice and capers; using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits in the pan and blend them into the sauce. Simmer for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the butter. Stir in the chicken, asparagus, roasted peppers, any juices, and the oregano (or basil). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Honeyed Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

Serves 4

The honey-soy mustard crust on the salmon contrasts nicely with the simple and delicious roasted asparagus.

Many Americans view fresh fish as restaurant fare, food best left to professionals to skillfully prepare. That may be because we have the faith that food professionals know how to purchase safe seafood. Get to know your fish monger-even if in a store such as Whole Foods. They can tell you the origin of the fish and whether wild-caught or farm-raised. If you ever hope to get a kid to eat fish, this 3-minute sauce (which goes great on shrimp, scallops, and chicken, as well) is the key.

Note: make sure to read asparagus directions as you may want to prepare first.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, until butter and sugar have melted together. Stir in mustard, honey and Worcestershire sauce

Heat oil in an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper and add to pan flesh-side down. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until fully browned and flip. Brush with half of the glaze and place pan in oven until salmon is firm and flaky (but before white fat begins to form on surface), about 5 minutes. Remove, brush salmon with more of the honey sauce and serve with asparagus.

Roasted Parmesan Asparagus

  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Trim and/or peel tough ends from asparagus.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange asparagus in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.

Roast in the oven until asparagus is tender and cheese is golden-about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.