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. Eve Martino says:

    My favorite spring recipe: Clean asparagus and lightly blanche in boiling water. Drain well and transfer to serving or storing container. Coat with italian salad dressing or vinegarette. (Homemade or bottled). Let stand several hours to overnight in fridge. I sometimes garnish mine with chopped hard boiled egg and parsley. Great as a salad or side.

  2. Sandy Douglass Abalos says:

    I love fresh asparagus & can’t wait to replant the berm where my parents took over a plot from the previous owners of this 9 acre stretch of pineywoods paradise. My favorite way to prepare “speargrass” as we like to call it, is to steam it till crisp tender (I am more into the crisp than my husband who prefers soggy/overcooked), then douse with oyster sauce. Yumminess!

  3. Mary says:

    To “gild the lily” I lightly batter and fry them quickly. Serve with a homemade Mayonnaise sprinkled with some capers and minced shallots. They get gobbled up when company comes.

  4. Jill says:

    I spent one spring with my husband’s grandmother. She had a huge patch of asparagus. We had it at supper a different way every night for 2 weeks. I wish we had an asparagus patch to enjoy. it always brings back great memories of Grandma Hall

  5. Lisa Small says:

    Make Anna’s recipe for roast asparagus, then drizzle with brown butter and shower with lemon zest. Mmmm….

  6. Sheila Thomson says:

    Historically, I would quickly blanche asparagus, then dress with a Korean marinade. Soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil and roasted seeds.

    But last night I used it in a noodle stir fry with garlic, carrot match sticks, onions slices cut to a similar length and asparagus stalks, marinated chicken to a similar shape (firm tofu would have been just as good, pre fried in that matchstick shape with garlic) and cooked thin spaghetti noodles. I sprinkled with soy sauce, hoisin, sherry, sugar, chili sauce, grated fresh ginger and black pepper to taste. Finish with sesame oil. I added a bit of broth as it was on the counter.

    Just hearing the name Anna Thomas makes me happy. As a young vegetarian, she made my early forays into cooking a joy, both with her attitude toward food and eating as well as the recipes I still cherish.

  7. Helen says:

    Growing my own asparagus in a raised bin, on the porch…..delicious! Can’t wait to try the new to me recipe of oven roasted, oil, salt, eggs, and Parmesan!

  8. Betsey says:

    Saute fresh asparagus in olive oil until almost tender.

    Whisk egg yolk with lemon juice; pour over asparagus, and stir to coat.


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