Asparagus spring dishes


The sweet sound of robins serenading me during morning chores, heralding the arrival of a glorious sunrise, puts a spring in my step. I can’t help but feel excited and giddy of a new day. The robin’s song also announces the arrival of another spring opener, not for the baseball season but the asparagus season.

I grew up with at least three asparagus patches in Mom’s garden. My great-great grandmother started the original patch when the farm was homesteaded in the 1860s. My favorite spring meal was creamed asparagus served on toast. I remember my dad being disappointed when his children learned to love asparagus, because it meant less for him to eat.

There has never been an asparagus patch on our farm in Minnesota; yet, I passed on my love for creamed asparagus to the next generation. For Mother’s Day one year, Jonathon dug two parallel ditches at the end of my garden and placed the asparagus roots. For the next two years, I slowly filled in the ditch as the asparagus established itself. On year No. 3, I was able to take my first few cuttings. What a treat. Ever since, we have been enjoying asparagus spring dishes.

I found these recipes from the “Simply in Season” cookbook from the Mennonite Central Committee. These are “recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of more with less.” After an inch of spring rains, I’m anticipating several meals with asparagus as center stage using these new recipes.

Asparagus soup

1 pound asparagus

Cut off tip ends and blanch until tender, 3-5 minutes. Drain (saving 2 cups water) set aside tips. Chop spears.

2 cups water or vegetable broth or chicken broth

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

Cook with chopped asparagus spears until soft, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and puree until smooth. Return to heat.

2 cups saved water

1 cup dry milk powder

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend separately. Add to soup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly. Stir in asparagus tips and cooked bacon bits.

Sugared asparagus

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Melt together in large frypan over medium high heat until dissolved.

2 pounds asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces.

Add to sugar mixture and sauté 2 minutes.

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Stir in, bring to boil, cover and simmer until just tender, 6-8 minutes. Remove asparagus to warm dish. Return liquid to boil, and simmer uncovered until sauce is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Pour over asparagus, sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Sausage asparagus skillet

1 pound bulk sausage

1 medium onion, chopped

Fry together until lightly browned. Drain fat.

4-5 medium potatoes, chopped

1/2 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Add, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths

Add and simmer an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add extra water if needed.

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Sprinkle on top and serve.

Grilled maple barbecue chicken

3/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon onion, minced or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine in tight-sealing container and shake until blended.

6 boneless chicken breasts, or thighs or chicken legs

Add to container and marinate, refrigerated at least 1 hour. Place everything in microwavable dish and microwave together for 5 minutes. Remove chicken. Pour marinade into a small saucepan; bring to boil and boil 3-5 minutes. Place chicken on gas grill over medium heat, cover and grill 5 minutes. Turn chicken, brush with marinade and grill another 5 minutes. Continue to turn, baste and grill until tender. To bake: Place chicken skin side up in a greased pan. Pour marinade on top and bake at 350 degrees, basting every 15-20 minutes, until done (about 1 hour with bone in, less if boneless). To pan-fry: Remove chicken from marinade and cook in oiled fry pan. When nearly cooked, pour in some marinade, which will caramelize. Remove chicken. Add about 3 tablespoons water to pan, stir and serve glaze over the meat.

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark Schmitt started an adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.


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