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Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, well worth growing at home. Its fern makes a beautiful addition to any backyard, and asparagus cooked straight from the garden is a great spring feast. It may take a few years to get an asparagus patch established, but then it will provide succulent green spears for as long as thirty or forty years.
Height of the season is April and May. Look for round firm, fresh-looking spears, very green with smooth tight tips. Thickness does not affect tenderness.
Cook plain or with sauces, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, as an appetizer, in soups, salads, vegetable custards, or in quiches. As a side dish asparagus goes well with beef, veal and salmon. Figure on 6 to 8 spears per person.
Basic Method for Cooking Asparagus
24 large asparagus
Wash the asparagus and cut or break off the tough, colorless, woody bottom of each stalk. Peel with a vegetable peeler, lightly near the top and more deeply toward the bottom. Plunge the spears into a large pot of boiling water and boil gently until the bottoms are just tender when pierced with a knife. Begin testing after 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Drain well and serve with melted butter, Hollandaise sauce or cheese sauce.
Spoon 1/2 cup basic vinaigrette dressing over hot or cold asparagus, either ahead of time or just before serving.
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive or salad oil
In a small bowl mix vinegar and salt and let stand a few minutes. Add the pepper and slowly stir or whisk in the oil. Taste for acid and salt and add more if to bland. Stir to blend before serving, or store in a jar with a tight lid and shake well before using.
Makes 4 servings.
Asparagus cooked in the Chinese way will be crisp and very green.
1 pound thin asparagus
2 to 3 tablespoons cooking oil
salt freshly ground pepper
Wash the asparagus and trim the bottoms. Cut in 1/2-inch slices, slanted at the ends. Heat the oil in a wok ora skillet, add the asparagus, and sauté quickly, tossing frequently, until all the pieces are coated, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, just until tender. season to taste, and serve immediately.
3 cups cooked asparagus
8 or more slices cooked chicken
4 tablespoons dry sherry
2 cups white sauce
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow baking dish and lay the asparagus over the bottom. Put the chicken over the asparagus. Add sherry to the white sauce, heat, beat 2 tablespoons of sauce into the egg yolks, then stir the yolk sauce mixture back into the sauce. Add salt to taste. Spoon evenly over the chicken, sprinkle with cheese, and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until very hot.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
An appealing-looking soup with a pleasing asparagus taste.
1 pound fresh asparagus, or 1 package frozen
1-1/2 cups chicken stock or canned broth
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup milk or cream
freshly ground pepper
If using fresh asparagus, wash stalks and cut off the coarse ends. Cook in 2 cups boiling water until tender.Drain, reserving 1 cup of the water. Cut off the asparagus tips, chop them and reserve. Put the chicken stock, onion, and reserved water in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and simmer for 5 minutes. Put through a strainer or vegetable mill or purée in a food processor or electric blender. Return to the pot and add the milk or cream and salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and adjust the seasonings. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped asparagus tips.
Makes 4 cups