the age of asparagus, and a 5-cookbook giveaway!

‘NO ONE CAN ARGUE WITH THE AESTHETICS OF ASPARAGUS,” says Anna Thomas, author of the 1972 million-seller “The Vegetarian Epicure,” and I’d say no one can argue with its flavor, either. What tastes more like spring? To celebrate the dawning of the age of asparagus here at A Way to Garden, I asked Anna to share some copies of her latest cookbook, “Love Soup,” for a contest, and a cookoff of sorts—all in the comments, of course. Get our favorite recipes, and maybe win one of five copies of this wonderful guide to smart, fresh cuisine by telling us how you serve up your asparagus.

To enter to win a copy, simply scroll down to the comments and tell us how you like your spears. Type a whole recipe right into the comment box, or just a link to a recipe on your blog or another’s, or perhaps a tip instead about what you like asparagus served with (Anna says dill and lemon come to mind, for starters).

The backstory: I met Anna Thomas when “Love Soup” came out last fall, and promptly stocked my freezer with double batches of several of her recipes made from my winter squash and sweet potatoes and kale and the like, and stocked up on copies to give as holiday gifts. Now a whole new season of homegrown vegetables has begun, and I’m working my way through “Chapter 9: First Tastes of Spring,” and on to “Chapter 10: Green and Greener.” Heaven. Vats of Asparagus Bisque, here I come.

This must-have cookbook features 160 vegetarian recipes for soups and all the extras, from breads to spreads and salads and even sweets, needed to turn them into meals. It’s so good it won a prestigious James Beard Award May 2.  (Pretty clever of us to all be celebrating her right then, huh?)

And now, let’s make something to eat.

Anna Thomas’s Asparagus Suggestions:


In Soup: Anna’s Snap Pea, Asparagus and Fennel Soup is currently on the “News” tab of her website (though you may have to scroll if you are reading this months hence).

Roasted: “I love the thin, green stalks, rolled in olive oil and a bit of sea salt and roasted until brown and crisp at the ends,” says Anna about her favorite finger food. “Oh boy–they taste like potato chips, only better!” Roll a baking sheet of spears in a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil until coated, sprinkle with sea salt, and roast in a 400 degree oven until crisp (or to taste).

In Salads: Add thin diagonally sliced raw asparagus pieces to salads, she says, combining with butter lettuce and fresh herbs, or with endive and radicchio, finished with large shavings of Parmesan (plus a vinaigrette).

My Go-to Asparagus Recipes:

Wraps: Asparagus, barely cooked, makes a great stuffing for wraps. Favorite combinations: asparagus, mesclun and hummus; asparagus, mesclun and melted Manchego cheese (or any favorite kind); asparagus, lightly scrambled or fried egg, and Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Frittatas: I showed you my basic recipe for frittata last fall, when the filling includes garden greens like kale. Right now it’s inch-long pieces of asparagus, very lightly cooked before incorporating into the egg mixture.

Frittata Improv: No time for the real deal? Simply lay whole spears on an oiled rimmed baking pan, scramble some eggs and pour the liquid over the asparagus—just about halfway covering the spears, not deep–then bake in a hot oven. Top with grated cheese and pepper when almost done. Slice with a spatula, garnish with some mesclun.

Risotto: I don’t use a recipe, except to say I cook Arborio rice that I have sautéed first in olive oil and butter with a combination of white wine and water or vegetable stock to a thick but still soupy consistency. I fold in grating cheese and lightly cooked asparagus pieces, and maybe some lightly sautéed mushrooms, before serving. Oops! If I remember, and I usually do, some sautéed shallots or onions make it into the routine, too. You can try Martha’s risotto recipe, or this one that The New York Times has one adapted from chef Mario Batali, where a portion of the asparagus is pureed first to add to the rice mixture for a green concoction.

Contest Details:

Add your asparagus recipe, tip, or pairing idea in a comment below to enter. Entries close at midnight Thursday, May 6, with winners to be announced Friday. From all the entries, I’ll select five random winners using the tool at random dot org. Can’t wait for a copy? You can buy “Love Soup” here now. Delicious.

Did I almost forget to tell you how to grow asparagus? Silly me. It’s right here.

140 comments
April 30, 2010

comments

  1. says

    I like it tossed with olive oil and sea salt, roasted (about 15 min in a 450 degree oven), and served with a poached egg on top. Breakfast heaven.

  2. Teresa says

    For dinner, I’ll be making risotto with asparagus and fresh peas that I bought at our local farmers’ market today.

  3. jo anne says

    I eat mine raw in the garden while weeding and planting…not many spears make it into the kitchen.

  4. says

    Asparagus Forever! More Asparagus! Bring it!

    Anyone who wants a couple more recipes featuring asparagus should go to the News page of my website, vegetarianepicure.com which is cited above, and scro-o-o-o-oll on down to TIME FOR FARRO. There you will see Farro Soup for Springtime, and Farro Salad for Easter, both of which combine plenty of asparagus with other things you’re dying to use right now — snap peas, leeks, dill, etc., etc…..

    Thanks, Margaret, for a great blog! — Anna

  5. says

    My favorite which I had today for lunch: Toss lightly with mildly flavored olive oil, spread on foil lined pan, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and roast in 425 oven for 10 min, remove from oven, sprinkle with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and continue to roast another 4-5 min or until parmesan is lightly browned. Oh so delicious! I love peeling the melted parmesan off the foil! It melts in your mouth!
    KathyG

  6. Cheryl W. says

    I like to my asparagus in a penne asparagus shrimp pasta toss.

    Very easy. I toss fresh blanched asparagus in with some cooked penne past and shrimp and then dress with a light olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

  7. bernadette burch says

    We love our just picked from the garden asparagas, steamed, and then lightly salted and peppered. Wrap this in very thin slices of tavern ham with a slice of Gurnsey’s Gift Baby Swiss cheese, and you will think you are in heaven.

  8. LC says

    There is no “bad” way to fix asparagus! I love it roasted with just a bit of olive oil and seasoning. Divine!

  9. Jayne says

    We steam our asparagus fresh from picking, then a light touch of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. Mary Washington, you are divine!

  10. Sharon says

    oven roasted with lemon, sea salt and the best ex virgin org olive oil I can find, unless I eat it all raw in the garden!

  11. Vicki says

    I roast mine when I want it “special,” laying the spears in a single layer in a pan, rolling them in a little olive oil, sprinkling them with fresh-ground pepper, kosher salt, and finely minced garlic. Then you drizzle them with a little fresh lemon juice before serving. Absolutely srumptious.

  12. Rita K. says

    I pickle and water-bath can the asparagus for my 89 year old mother. Sometimes it’s difficult to find something an elderly person will eat, and she loves them!

  13. benjia morgenstern says

    I love steamed asparagus with roasted red peppers and roasted sweet onions and then topped with a LIGHT basil pesto dressing ( add no cheese or pine nuts). Add a fresh warm french bread and that can make for a wonderful dinner…

  14. Kitty says

    Yes, I know this sounds unhealthy, but my Grandmom used to bread and fry asparagus. It was so good and few of the spears made it to the serving platter. We would stand by the stove and she would hand them out after they cooled a bit.

    Nowadays, I would suggest Panko crumbs instead of plain bread crumbs.

    Dip each spear in egg mixture, roll in the crumbs, have oil HOT, fry until starts to turn brown. Remove from pan, place on a paper towel. They are best just a few minutes after frying.

  15. Betty says

    I like the asparagus deep fried also, we only do it once when we get a first batch. It is so good, dipped in egg and bread crumbs or your favorite breading, then deep fry. Steamed and add velveeta cheese. Pickled using my dill pickle receipe is also very tasty. We live in N.D. so ours is not up yet, but soon I hope. We provide many friends with asparagus when it starts gowing.

  16. Susan says

    I have to brag on my husband, Joe. He has perfected an asparagus appetizer. It was great during the blizzards with fresh asparagus from the store, but is even more divine with the REALLY fresh stuff. Take 2 sheets of phyllo dough, brush with melted butter (from the center toward the edges), sprinkle with Parmesan, fold lengthwise and brush with a bit more butter. Take 4 raw, pencil-thick asparagus spears and lay them on the phyllo and sprinkle with coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more Parmesan. Then roll the phyllo up enclosing the spears. Place on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with more Parmesan and bake exactly 17 minutes at 375 degrees. The asparagus will be perfectly cooked. Slice the rolls diagonally into appetizer-sized bites. Luckily Joe hasn’t yet developed a dip to go with it, so at least I’ve saved those calories.

  17. ann says

    Years ago, I was blessed with a trip to Germany with my Mother and children
    and we loved the fields of white ‘spargle’. Our hostess, Hannelore,
    served us asparagus cream soup in a beautiful tureen ’cause the soup lacked color but was unforgettable. My thoughts are that this vegetable is always an event because asparagus season is soon over, and we know it.

  18. Caroline Turben says

    I love them steamed, slathered in a balsamic dressing and then if i’m serving to guests, topped with a bit of chopped egg white. French friends of ours who owned a fabulous NY restaurant used to serve it that way. Brings back great memories.

  19. Foodelf says

    Asparagus Lasagne:

    Use Alfredo Sauce between layers of fresh (blanched) lasagne noodles & roasted asparagus spears, ending with layer of pasta. Top with asparagus tips and finish with sauce lightened with a little softly whipped cream. Season – bake at 400F 20-20 minutes until golden & bubbling – stand 10 mins before serving.

    Although I no longer grow asparagus (different, smaller garden now), I’ll never forget the thrill and the deliciousness of picking and preparing my own from the garden.

    Thanks,
    Foodelf

  20. Nancy says

    I like to wrap a piece of proscuitto around it and grill! Or marinade in a good red wine vinegrette for an hour or so at room temperature. Yum!

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