As soon as the white stuff starts to disappear, I get excited about all of the beautiful spring produce that will be available in grocery stores and markets in just a few weeks. One of my favourite spring vegetables is asparagus (Californian and Mexican grown asparagus is available right now, look for local asparagus in a few weeks).
Last week I was fortunate enough to be a guest on both the local television show “daytime”, as well as “Breakfast Television” in Toronto. The idea for both appearances (credit goes to Impact Integrated Communications) was that “economies may be withering, but thanks to the warm weather, asparagus ‘stocks’ (stalks) are again soaring! In summary, I produced three very healthy, very fast, and very easy asparagus and egg based recipes meant to feed a family of four for around five bucks!
Asparagus is an extremely versatile veggie – you can blanch it, steam it, boil it, roast it, microwave it, stir fry it, or bbq it (my fav).
Just before taping our segment on Breakfast Television, a few of the BT staff confessed that although they love eating crisp-tender cooked asparagus found on many a crudité platter, they’re afraid to prepare asparagus at home for fear of overcooking!
Here’s a tip that I shared with the crew – try a technique called blanching – which means putting food (usually vegetables or fruit ) into boiling water briefly, then immediately plunging them into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process (in the culinary world, this last step is known as “shocking”). How long you blanch the asparagus will depend on the thickness of the stalk, but for stalks that are of medium thickness, it should take about three to four minutes (or forget the timer and remove the asparagus from the boiling water as soon as it turns a vibrant green colour).
Lastly, if all else fails and you overcook the asparagus, don’t fret (and definitely don’t pitch it) - puree it into asparagus “guacamole” and serve with tortilla chips! An asparagus guacamole recipe can be found on my website: www.danashortt.ca (go to ‘news’, ‘newsletters’, ‘March 2007’).
Asparagus Frittata with red bell peppers & feta cheese
serves 4 - 6
• 1 lb. (one pound) asparagus, trimmed and blanched
• 2 tbsp (two tablespoons) olive oil
• 1 (one) red bell pepper, julienned
• 1/2 cup (one-half cup) onion, chopped
• 2 tbsp (two tablespoons) Italian parsley, chopped
• 8 (eight) large eggs, beaten
• ¾ cup (three-quarters of one cup) feta cheese, crumbled
• salt and pepper, to taste
• parsley sprigs and/or lemon wedges for garnish, optional
1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
2. Reserve 6 whole, blanched asparagus spears and lightly coat with a bit of the olive oil. Cut remaining asparagus at an angle into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat (important note –you must use a frying pan that has an oven-safe handle and one that can go into the oven). Sauté onion and bell pepper until soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus pieces and sauté for 1 minute. Crumble feta cheese on top of vegetables.
4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Whisk in chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture on top of the cooked vegetable-feta cheese mixture in pan.
5. Cover pan with oven-safe lid or tin foil and bake until eggs are just set, about 35-40 minutes. Remove cover, place reserved asparagus spears on top of the frittata in a star shaped pattern and bake until top is lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Remove frittata from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer to large platter and garnish with parsley and/or lemon wedges if desired.