On Your Table: Spring means tasty local Asparagus

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April to June is the best season for fresh local crop

By Cathy BranciaroliFood Correspondent, The Times


An easy and light dish is Asparagus quiche which can be made with many spring ingredients

Asparagus is one of those spring treasures that we patiently wait for all year long. Once it’s finally in season, we want to treat it simply, letting the fresh flavor of this vegetable shine through.   Even though it’s available all year long at the grocery store, hunt down freshly picked asparagus at farmers markets from April to June when it tastes the best and be rewarded by a tasty side dish or vegetarian treat.

And don’t let those old wives tales about pencil thin being better than thicker stalks derail you.  The truth is, what matters is how fresh the spears are, not how thin.  Look for a smooth, firm stalk and a tight, nearly purple tip.  When you get the stalks home, snap off the woody bottoms and place the ends down in a jar in small amount of water – in the refrigerator works best.  You can keep them three or four days this way until you are ready to cook.

If you don’t know how to cook asparagus, or if you just find yourself always making it the same way each time, try my few suggestions because you shouldn’t let another spring pass you by without eating asparagus as much as possible, in as many different ways as possible.

First of all – do not steam or boil asparagus – these methods of preparation steal all the life out of the spears and you end up with a soggy mess.  If you must, simmer the spears in about one inch of water in a saucepan for 3-5 minutes until bright green and crisp-tender or sautee cut-up pieces in melted butter for the same amount of time.

Prepping Asparagus
Be sure to rinse the asparagus well, because after all, it comes from the ground. Break off the tough wooden ends by bending the spear a few times to find a place where it breaks easily. If you have want asparagus that is more than 1/3 inch thick you can use a vegetable peeler to get ride of its “scales.”  A trick I learned from my mother in law was to save the woody ends rather than tossing them out.  Freeze them and then wrap in cheesecloth to add flavor to broths or soups.

I’m a big fan of roasting asparagus, which concentrates the flavors while preserving the crisp tenderness of the spears. Preparation is simple.  Just wash and trim off a couple inches from the bottom. Or you can just bend them at the bottom and see what snaps off, this way your asparagus lets you know where it wants to be trimmed.  Toss your trimmed asparagus in olive oil, kosher salt (or sea salt) and fresh ground pepper. Lay on a baking sheet and roast at about 400 degrees for about eight to ten minutes or until you see them taking on a little color.

Grilling produces a similar affect as roasting, but you get the added enjoyment of being outside in hopefully nice weather. Brush the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. On a heated grill, lay the spears perpendicular to the wires on the rack (you don’t want to lose your asparagus to the coals!). Grill for roughly 8-10 minutes.

Asparagus and Ham Quiche

An easy to prepare dish filled with seasonal flavors, perfect for a brunch or light supper served with a salad.



1 store-bought 9-inch pie crust

4 large eggs

¾ cups half and half

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces and sauteed

¼ pound cooked ham, chopped

4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese

Salt and pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and half & half.  Add the asparagus, ham and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Roll out pastry to fill a pie plate or tart pan.  Pour egg mixture into the pie crust.  Bake until set, about 50-60 minutes depending on your oven.  Let cool and serve either warm or room temperature.


Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog Delaware Girl Eats

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