You know it's springtime when bundles of asparagus appear on the stands of your local farmers market! Full of nutrients, and with a refined fresh flavor, it's no wonder this speared vegetable has been highly prized for thousands of years. Asparagus can be harvested by late February, hitting its peak in April, then slowing down by late May or early June. Asparagus can be expensive, so buying within the local season guarantees your best bet in terms of freshness, price, and flavor.
Asparagus in History
Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean, asparagus has been depicted in images as old as a 3,000-year-old Egyptian tomb.
The Ancient Greeks believed Asparagus to be a sacred and highly medicinal plant. Rome’s first emperor, Augustus Caesar, was an Asparagus connoisseur. He coined the phrase, “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur”, Latin for “faster than cooking asparagus,” to say “get going!”.
Asparagus isn’t just a historical superstar, Its loaded with supernatural nutrients for your body!
Some Health Benefits found in Asparagus
High in vitamin K, essential for bone health and management of blood clotting
Contains significant amounts of folate which contributes to healthy cell development, DNA formation and is considered vital during pregnancy
Loaded with Antioxidants, compounds that help protect your cells from harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. (Oxidative stress contributes to aging, chronic inflammation and many diseases including cancer.)
High in dietary fiber, containing both insoluble and soluble fiber, which are highly beneficial for digestive health Insoluble fiber adds bulk and lightness to stools, helping food pass more quickly through the stomach and digestive tract.
When consumed, soluble fiber turns to gel and is fermented by colon bacteria, which in turn feeds the probiotics, acting as a prebiotic
There are many great reasons to eat Asparagus in the spring. It is a truly inspiring health boasting vegetable, and if you haven’t already hit the farmers market, now is a good time to take home your prize worthy bundle while still in season
Caramelized Onion and Asparagus Tart
Makes for two 8 inch pizza shell crusts
1 bunch Asparagus
(if using thick asparagus, slice in half or use a potato peeler for shavings. If using thin asparagus, leave whole). Cut off one inch of the stem from the bottom. *These are hard and too fibrous*
1 Package of Viccolo Corn Crust
Pizza Shells. Contains two shells. Or any 8 inch pizza shells.
1/2 cup of either crumbled or small cubed French or Greek feta
1 large size yellow onion
3/4 cup water (use 1/4 cup at a time to caramelize )
2-3 Tbsp olive oil or half parts butter with half parts oil. Can also use rendered pork fat for deeper flavor. Use 2 Tbsp.
1/2 tsp salt
Ricotta Cheese 12oz
1 Tbsp softened butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of lemon zest
*Preheat oven to 400
For the Caramelized Onion
Cut the ends off the onion, slice in half, remove peel and cut onion into slices
Heat up the oil in a pan on medium to medium high.
Add onion and salt, stir and let sit. When onions start to brown, give them a quick stir. Allow them to continue to brown, stirring occasionally and letting them sit. When all of the onions have changed to a light brown, pour in 1/4 of your water and let onion sit. Reduce heat to medium low. When almost all water has evaporated, stir again and add another 1/4 cup of your reserved water. Let onion sit. Repeat once more. When almost all water has evaporated, stir the onions and add the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Let sit again and turn off heat when water has evaporated. You should end up with a thick golden brown onion slurry. Always taste, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Spoon out onions from pan and reserve to the side.
*quick tip- If you over stir, the onions wont brown but watch them closely to prevent onions from drying out on the sides of the pan. If onions are drying out, add a little oil to the pan.
In the same pan you’ve caramelized the onions, add the Asparagus. If the pan is dry add a small amount of oil. Turn on heat to medium and sauteé asparagus for no more than 3 minutes, stirring or shaking pan. Turn off heat and remove asparagus from pan onto a plate.
For the Ricotta spread
In a bowl combine, the ricotta, softened butter, garlic powder, salt, lemon zest and egg. Stir until all ingredients have mixed thoroughly.
Take your two pizza shell crusts. On one crust spread on half of the ricotta mix and distribute evenly. Sprinkle on 1/4 cup of crumbled feta. Spoon on caramelized onion. Lastly arrange your asparagus to your liking. Repeat for second pizza crust.
Place in oven for 15 minutes.
This is a great potluck dish or you can freeze the second tart and store for later.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
Dairy free. The potato in the soup gives it a creamy texture.
32 oz uncooked loose spinach (blanched) and strained
1 small russet potato peeled and diced
1/4 of a medium size onion diced
3 cloves of garlic
1 shiitake mushroom sliced across
3 cups chopped asparagus
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups broth of choice (veggie, chicken, bone) or water is fine
1 cube garden veggie bouillon
For the recipe
As much as you can, squeeze out all of the water from strained spinach, making a tight fist with the spinach. The spinach should end up like a tight dense ball. Set aside.
On medium heat, add 3 Tbsp of oil to a soup pot.
Add potatoes to the soup pot and stir. Let potatoes cook for two minutes. Add Onions and salt. Stir. Reduce heat to medium low.
When onions start browning, add garlic and stir frequently about 5 minutes. Break apart spinach and mix in well. Pour in 2 cups of the broth and throw in asparagus. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Turn heat off and taste. Adjust seasoning to type of broth or water. Pour soup mixture into a blender on high. Blend on high until the soup reaches a creamy smooth consistency. When soup is completely pureed and there are no lumps, transfer soup back to pot and pour in remaining 2 cups of broth.
Turn heat back on low and cover with lid. Let soup heat up again for about 2-3 minutes or until bubbles start to rise. Turn heat off.
Enjoy with some warm crusty bread!