Asparagus Is Springing Up!

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This past weekend I brought home a beautiful bucket full of fresh asparagus, if you could see a photo, it would so tempt your taste buds! Asparagus has rapidly become a favorite green vegetable for many. It arrives in early spring but is available all summer! Asparagus is full of nutrition. Low in calories (only 25 per serving!) and sodium, and has no fat or cholesterol. A serving of Asparagus provides 10 percent of the daily requirement of foliate, eight percent of dietary fiber and potassium, and 100 percent of vitamin C. Including Asparagus in everyday meals and snacks can help prevent cancer, heart disease and hypertension. All good news for this tasty veggie.

Asparagus Casserole

(This one goes way back but is still a favorite!)

Two bunches fresh asparagus
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
5 ounces Cheddar, grated
4 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the asparagus to a large pot of boiling water, keeping the bundles together with rubber bands or string. Cook for a couple of minutes; the asparagus should be bright green and still crunchy. List the bundles out of the water and slice off the tough ends of the asparagus. Drop the trimmed ends back in the boiling water and lower to a simmer.

Run the asparagus tops under cold water to stop the cooking.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and 1 cup of the asparagus cooking liquid. Add the salt and continue cooking until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the grated Cheddar and cook, stirring, until melted, about 1 minute.

Arrange the asparagus in the bottom of a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish, alternating the stem ends so each serving includes both heads and stems. Thinly slice the hard-boiled eggs and arrange them over the asparagus. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggs and asparagus and sprinkle with the cracker crumbs. Bake until lightly browned and bubbles appear around the edges, about 20 minutes. Serves 8.

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Citrus Dressing

2 pounds asparagus, (about 2 bunches), trimmed

1 pint tiny cherry or grape tomatoes, red or mixed colors

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice (I prefer to use 2 tablespoons of the fresh lemon juice instead)

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 bunches romaine, tough stems removed (about 4 cups lightly packed)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place asparagus in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and oil and toss to coat. Spread in a heavy roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, spooning the tomatoes between and on top of the asparagus.

Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add a generous grinding of pepper. Roast until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the tomatoes are warmed and slightly crinkled, about 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.

Whisk lemon juice, orange juice, honey, mustard and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until blended. Reserve half of the dressing in a small bowl.

Add romaine to the medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread on a platter. Arrange the roasted asparagus on the watercress and top with tomatoes. Drizzle the reserved dressing over the asparagus and tomatoes; sprinkle with dill. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Serves 6, each serving contains: Calories 61, Fat 6 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 9 g, Protein 3 g, Fiber 2 g, Sodium 319 mg.

 

Beer Battered Asparagus

Sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco, optional
Asparagus:
1 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beer, such as amber ale, at room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying

1 pound slender asparagus, trimmed to 5-inch lengths, or a combination of 8 ounces asparagus and 8 ounces yellow or green zucchini, zucchini trimmed and cut on deep diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices, patted dry

For the sauce: Whisk the mayonnaise, capers, chives, tarragon, lemon juice, mustard, zest and garlic in a small bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or more, if desired. The sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead, covered and chilled.

For the asparagus: Whisk the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk the beer into the flour mixture until smooth.

Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy large wide saucepan to reach a depth of 3 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature registers between 350 degrees F and 360 degrees F.

Coat the asparagus, in batches, in beer batter, allowing any excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Drop the asparagus, in batches, into the hot oil and fry until the batter is deep golden brown and asparagus are crisp-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per batch. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature. Transfer the asparagus using a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Immediately mound the asparagus on a serving platter. Place the bowl of dipping sauce alongside and serve while the asparagus are still hot. Serves 6.
Swiss Mac and Cheese with Asparagus

(Adapted from a Food Network recipe)

Nonstick cooking spray
Kosher salt
1 pound penne pasta (whole wheat preferred)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches raw asparagus, bottom trimmed 2-inches and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
10 slices Swiss cheese
1 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Move a rack to the middle of the oven. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large pot set over high heat bring 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons kosher salt to a boil. Add the penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions, stirring occasionally. The pasta will be slightly underdone. Use a measuring cup or ladle to remove 1/3 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta into a colander. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, whisking constantly. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to thicken like heavy cream and then becomes almost pudding-like, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shredded cheese and whisk until smooth, the sauce will be very thick. Add the nutmeg and season with some salt and pepper.

Combine the asparagus, pasta, reserved 1/3 cup pasta water and cheese sauce and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with a layer of the cheese slices. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle the panko over the cheese slices, and top with the butter cubes. Bake until the top is golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 10.

Written By

Photo of Tammy Kelly, Ed. DTammy Kelly, Ed. DCounty Extension Director (252) 527-2191 tammy_kelly@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina
Posted on Apr 12, 2016
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