What’s For Dinner? Spring Asparagus Two Ways

Spring Asparagus Two Ways
By Melody Tierney

Welcome to spring! It’s such a delicious time of the year. But of course, every season brings with it its own “deliciousness”! Trees are budding, leaving that hazy chartreuse glow everywhere, and edibles are miraculously popping out of the dirt everywhere—including asparagus. First brought to America by the colonists, you can now find the early spring vegetable growing in every state and on almost every continent. Surprisingly, asparagus can be found in the wild, having escaped from home gardens into the woods. Don’t be surprised if you find it while foraging.

I have included two recipes to tempt your palette: a creamy asparagus soup and sautéed asparagus with a wonderful chopped egg dressing called gribiche—very French! Serve either dish as a main course or as a starter or side.

Asparagus and Tarragon Soup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 roughly chopped medium white onion
2 roughly chopped cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 pounds of asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces, discarding tough ends
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup packed spinach leaves
1/4 cup packed chopped tarragon leaves, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup heavy cream
Crème fraîche for serving

In a heavy bottomed pot, toast fennel seeds in olive oil over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.

Add in the onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a couple of twists of ground pepper, stirring until onions are translucent, 4–5 minutes.

Add the asparagus and 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to coat. Add the butter, stirring into asparagus until melted. Add in the stock and simmer until asparagus is tender yet firm, about 4–5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the spinach and tarragon.

Add soup to a blender in small batches (so as not to overflow) and blend till smooth. Strain over a pot, stir in cream, and add salt and pepper as needed. Reheat soup if necessary. Serve in bowls and add a dollop of crème fraîche and a few tarragon leaves for garnish or a pansy for color. It’s yummy served with a buttermilk biscuit.

Sautéed Asparagus and Morels with a Gribiche Dressing (Serves 4)
For the asparagus:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 pint morel mushrooms
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Gently cook asparagus, turning occasionally until lightly browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. It should be tender but crisp. Season with salt and pepper.

Add remaining tablespoons of oil back into the skillet and add morels, tossing until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Gribiche Dressing
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
2 finely chopped cornichon (gherkins)
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Emulsify first four ingredients using a whisk or a blender. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding the parsley just before serving.

Toss asparagus and morels together and plate, individually or on a platter.

Spoon the dressing over the asparagus and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Note: Crumbled bacon is a nice addition to this dish or may be substituted for the cornichon. Dressing may separate if chilled or not used immediately. If this occurs you can reconstitute it, but the texture will change. Still delicious!


Photo credit: Melody Tierney.
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