Make the most of fresh asparagus at its peak

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It is fresh asparagus season, and the crop is beautiful. Our family has enjoyed some of the abundance from Rob Weeks' patch this week along with a few recipes he and his mother shared with us. Asparagus has a natural affinity for parsley, tarragon, soy sauce, sesame, garlic, ginger, lemon, cream, hard-cooked eggs, Parmesan and butter. These recipes seem to use just about all of these ingredients in some form. Enjoy the fresh new crop while it lasts.

Asparagus Spinach Pancakes

1 cup milk

3 eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed

1/4 pound asparagus, peeled and trimmed

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons plus 1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus on baking sheet and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Stir in the sour cream, spinach, asparagus, Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat 1/3 of the remaining oil. Make 4 pancakes (about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake) and cook until golden brown and slightly puffed, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Working in batches, make a total of 12 pancakes, adding oil as necessary.

Asparagus with Almond Sauce

1 pound asparagus spears

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon almonds, sliced

1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon

Steam asparagus over boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Transfer to serving plate. Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan. Add almonds. Cook and stir over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden. Stir in cornstarch. Add water, lemon juice and chicken bouillon granules. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Spoon sauce over asparagus.

French Fried Asparagus

2 pounds fresh asparagus, cooked and drained

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine egg and water. Mix remaining ingredients. Dip asparagus into crumbs, then egg mixture, then crumbs again. Chill one hour. Fry in deep fat 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Serve at once with your favorite dipping sauce, if desired.

Creamed Eggs and Asparagus

2 cups cooked asparagus tips, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces, reserving liquid

6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

2 cups white sauce made with milk and the reserved asparagus liquid

Prepare 2 cups white sauce using milk and the reserved asparagus liquid. When hot and bubbly, fold in the asparagus and sliced eggs. Cover with a layer of dry bread crumbs, dots of butter and grated cheese. Bake until thoroughly heated. Serve with a slice of ham and hot French bread.

Asparagus and Egg Salad

2 cups cooked and drained asparagus, cut into pieces

3 sliced hard cooked eggs

6 sliced stuffed olives

1 small head lettuce, washed and drained

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons grated onion

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/16 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons capers

Line a large bowl with lettuce leaves. Tear the rest into small pieces and combine with the cooked asparagus, eggs and olives. Chill in the bowl.

Combine sour cream, grated onion, lemon juice, salt, paprika, curry powder and capers. Pour dressing over the lettuce. Toss lightly and serve at once.

Asparagus and Red Pepper with Balsamic Vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 red onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

salt to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts (optional)

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the asparagus and red onion in the mixture, season with salt, and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir the red bell pepper into the mixture and continue cooking until the onions begin to caramelize, another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds and pine nuts; toss to combine.

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Irene Siemers of Cape Girardeau makes her peanut butter fudge for the annual Lutheran Home Auxiliary's Easter bake sale. My sister really likes her recipe, and Irene was nice enough to share with us. Irene is particular about the ingredients and says not to substitute other brands because it just does not turn out as well. This also freezes well and can be taken out a few pieces at a time as needed.

Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups C & H white granulated sugar

3/4 cup Parkay margarine

2/3 cup (5 1/3 fluid ounce can) Pet or Carnation evaporated milk

1 (7-ounce) jar Kraft marshmallow creme

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup creamy style Jif peanut butter

Combine sugar, margarine and milk in heavy saucepan; bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Stir until well blended. Pour into greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Spread. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds. Cut into 54 pieces, 6 one way and 9 the other way.

For chocolate fudge: substitute 1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips for the peanut butter.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at news@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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