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.

  1. Grace says:

    I like to cook a really good Italian sausage, slice it & toss with pasta, lots of barely-cooked asparagus, Parmesan & fresh ground pepper. Delicious! Also raw asparagus sliced thin in a salad with whatever other vegetables/greens are on hand. .

  2. annbb says:

    I’ve never met a spear I didn’t love…roasted, sauteed, steamed…
    Oh, and yesterday I had asparagus “fries” at a restaurant. The flavor
    was just amazing!

  3. Patti says:

    I LOVE asparagus just about any way it’s prepared except for mushy!!! I, too, love it rolled in olive oil and roasted with a sprinkle of kosher salt. I made an asparagus tart with Gruyere cheese for a family brunch recently and it was a hit. It will definitely make its way to our table again.

  4. Allison says:

    Asparagus Carpaccio – at the Global Palate Restaurant in West Park, NY – couldn’t tell you what was in it but divine is the only way to describe it.

  5. Michele says:

    Asparagus wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto, brushed with olive oil, sprinkle with pepper and grill. Then a splash of lemon juice to finish and serve. Fun and yummy finger friendly food.

    Congrats to Anna Thomas. Margaret, you sure know how to find the winners.

  6. Joanne Watson says:

    My daughter introduced me to roasting asparagus on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and coarse salt, and maybe a sprinkling of herbs. Yum!

  7. calgalinmichigan says:

    Slice asparagus into bite size or so pieces (diagonally if you must). Heat your cast iron skillet screaming hot. Throw in asparagus and then drizzle with olive oil. Don’t stir until the asparagus has blackened slightly, about 1-1/2 minutes. If smoke alarm goes off reduce heat to medium-high. Turn asparagus over to give the other side a chance to char, about another minute or so. If you like your asparagus crisp, sprinkle with kosher or sea salt and squeeze on some fresh lemon juice. For more tender asparagus, remove pan from heat and cover for 2-3 minutes, then add salt and lemon. Devour.

  8. Rae Koberna says:

    I, too, love it roasted in the oven, but if I am not using the oven for other things at the same time, I pop the asparagus with the olive oil and seasoning into the toaster oven. It comes out just as delicious and energy saving.

  9. Susan says:

    Like everyone else, roasted is probably my favorite, but I have to admit that eaten raw (with my fingers, natch) while waiting at a stoplight on the way home from the farmer’s market is probably a close second!

  10. Stacey Michael says:

    My husband (the family cook) swears by roasting asparagus in the toaster oven!! He drizzles it with olive oil, maybe some garlic if he feels like it, and sticks it in for about 5 minutes, then turns them, then another 5. Every toaster oven is slightly different, so keep an eye on it, but it totally rocks!

    And Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks were my favorite cookbooks when I started to cook—in fact they still are. They’re vegetarian with ethnic flair and authenticity. I love her books.

  11. Barbara says:

    Roasted or grilled. In place of the lemon juice, I drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the asparagus. Grated Parmesan cheese. That’is all. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!

  12. Tammy S says:

    Roasted with olive oil, a little minced garlic and some kosher salt… my mouth is watering!

  13. Lauren says:

    Drizzled with olive oil, salt/pepper and wrapped in foil in a very hot oven for 20 minutes. Perfection;)

  14. Lizzie says:

    Pan roasted, then served with kosher salt, dijon mustard and lemon juice.
    Or lightly steamed, served with a balsamic-honey reduction for dipping.
    Or (last but far from least) steamed, tossed with butter and salt…just like mom used to make!

    1. Margaret says:

      ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED. Thank you all. First, some welcomes to first-time commenters Maggie, Linda, Juliette, Chris, Barbara, Barb, Joanne, Stacey, Carole, Lizzie, Lauren.

      And now, the winners are: Diana (pesto!); Karen (quinoa!), Mischelle (in a bloody Mary!); Katie (roasted, maybe with some parmesan); and Rae (pop it into the toaster oven and save on energy). I will alert you all now by email.

      Remember, I’m stocking up on more great books…another contest before long. And if you didn’t win one of these five copies…my “sisters” on The Sister Project (my “other” blog) have THREE MORE COPIES to give away starting today. Go enter to win.

  15. lynn says:

    i like them, not too thin, not too fat, fresh as possible, rinse, peel away any thick skin at the base, on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil and salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees, until you like the way it is done, i like it still a little crunchy. then i sprinkle with some fresh chives and chervil, heaven sent!!!! oxoxoxo enjoy, happy days

  16. Michele Reeves says:

    I gently steam my asparagus, put 2-3 pats of butter on it, squeeze fresh lemon juice and lightly salt. YUM!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Michele. I just made another asparagus frittata last night, and have another batch already harvested that I will either broil or steam and have the way you say. See you soon again, and enjoy the crop!

  17. Joyce Gallivan says:

    Oiled and roasted, or in the frittata, Love it.,,,One year I covered my plants with leaves thinking I would outwit the weeds,,,, the moles loved the cover and asparagus…
    What is left is still sending up shoots that are ever so precious.

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