One of my favorite spring veggies is asparagus. Asparagus is simple to cook and, with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic, makes a great addition to a beef or salmon dish.

 Asparagus is a member of the lily family, which includes leeks, garlic, and onions. Asparagus is rich in protein but low in calories and carbohydrates.  It is an excellent source of potassium, folic acid, vitamins A, C, and K, and fiber. 

 There are three main varieties that are used in cooking:

  • White: Most popular in Northern Europe. It has a more delicate flavor than green or purple asparagus.
  • Purple: harvested before it turns green. It has a distinctive fruity flavor when cooked.
  • Green: Most common variety in the U.S. It has a more intense nutty flavor than the white or purple asparagus.

It is best when it is in season, which usually begins in March and runs through June. But don’t run to the stores in panic just yet – it’s available at most stores all year long.  It is best eaten within a few days of harvesting, so head to your local farmer’s market for the best selection.  When buying asparagus, choose straight, firm stalks with tight tips. Smell the bunch and make sure it does not give off any bad odor. The ends of the asparagus that have been cut should look moist and fresh, not dried and cracking. Fresh asparagus will last about 3 to 4 days, while blanched asparagus can last for 9 months in the freezer.

To prep asparagus for cooking, rinse under cold running water to remove any dirt or sand from the stalks and tips. Do not wash asparagus until you are ready to cook with them. To prep, there are two methods that you can use. One is to trim off the bottom end of the stalk by cutting off the area where the green color begins to fade. The other method is to simply snap off the ends by bending the stalk until it breaks naturally.  If your stalks are thick and have tough skin, you can peel the skin off with an asparagus peeler (a veggie peeler will work as well).  White asparagus have a tougher stem and should always be peeled.

Asparagus can be boiled, sautéed, steamed, roasted, and grilled.  Whichever way you decide to cook your asparagus, be careful that you don’t overcook it.  Overcooking will deplete the flavor and the texture of the asparagus and it will become mushy. Also, avoid cooking asparagus in an iron pot.  Asparagus reacts to iron and can cause discoloration of the asparagus spear and the iron pot.

Now that I’ve given you all this great information about asparagus, I can’t let you go without giving you a recipe to try!  My mom has been hinting that she wants me to make a quiche, and I like to challenge my palate with different flavors. So, this recipe will please the both of us!

Asparagus Quiche

  •  9-inch refrigerated pie crust
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 7 to 8 stalks asparagus, bottoms trimmed
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and tarragon. Pour 1/3 of the egg mixture into the pie crust and bake until the filling begins to set, about 10 minutes. Melt butter in a medium size skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook until tender; about 4 to 6 minutes.  In the quiche pan, arrange the asparagus like the spokes of a wheel. Sprinkle the Gruyere and Swiss cheeses over the asparagus. Pour the rest of the egg mixture over the top and bake for 30-35 minutes until the egg mixture is set.

 Makes 8 servings.  

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An asparagus recipe can be simple and uncomplicated but still be full of flavor, or it may be combined with other ingredients to create a fantastic dish. So, head to your farmer’s market (or the produce section in your local supermarket) and enjoy!

 Happy Eating!

 The Fab Foodie

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