Asparagus is the quintessential springtime vegetable – and rightfully so. It’s distintive taste and bright green color make the tender green stalks an anticipated spring side dish. Asparagus can also star as part of the season’s main course meals. Here are some asparagus facts and main dish recipes featuring asparagus.
All about asparagus
Types of asparagus
Green or white varieties of asparagus are most commonly available in the markets in the spring. Some markets may also carry a purple asparagus. White asparagus is essentially green asparagus that has been grown without light. Light lets chlorophyll produce the green pigments that give green asparagus its vibrant color. White may have a milder taste than its green counterpart but either can be used in an asparagus recipe.
In most areas, asparagus season is April through May. On the west coast it can begin in February and on the east coast it can run through July.
The best asparagus
When selecting your asparagus, opt for stalks that are not too thick at the base. They should be pencil-size and firm enough to stand up. The asparagus tips should be closed together and have a slight purplish tint.
As soon as you get the asparagus home from the market, wrap the ends in a damp paper towel to keep them moist and place them in the refrigerator. Keep asparagus in the crisper drawer to avoid heat and light. Use the perishable vegetable as soon as possible, ideally the same day.
How to prepare asparagus for cooking
Before cooking asparagus, gently rinse the stalks in a cold water bath. If the ends are too firm, cut them off. If you steam or blanch asparagus, immediately after cooking, dunk stalks in a cold water bath to maintain their brilliant green color.
Main dish asparagus recipes
Prosciutto and Asparagus Pizza
Makes 6 to 8 servingsIngredients:
1 (12-inch) unbaked pizza crust
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
6 to 8 thin slices of prosciutto
12 spears fresh asparagus, chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
11 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Fresh black pepperDirections:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place pizza crust on a pizza pan and sprinkle mozzarella overtop. Arrange prosciutto, asparagus and tomatoes over mozzarella then sprinkle evenly with goat cheese.2. Sprinkle thyme and black pepper over pizza. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden. Let cool before slicing and serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servingsIngredients:
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 green onion, chopped
12 spears fresh asparagus, steamed, blanched, and chopped
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbakedDirections:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk eggs with milk. Add onions and asparagus. Sprinkle cheeses into mixture and stir.2. Pour egg mixture into pie crust and set on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until set. Let cool before serving.
Chicken and Asparagus Roll-Ups
Makes 4 servingsIngredients:
12 asparagus spears, ends trimmed to fit chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thinly
1/2 cup store bought or homemade pesto sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to tasteDirections:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss asparagus with olive oil and Italian seasoning.2. Place chicken flat on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread pesto onto chicken, top with 3 asparagus spears, and sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper.3. Roll chicken pieces up and arrange seam-side down on the baking sheet. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Let cool before serving.