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Thursday, August 11

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Goodness gracious! I think it just may be spring here in the Great White North. There have been several days in the last few weeks where I've opened a window for the cats to sit in. The tulips are poking out of the ground, the crocuses wave their purple petals at me as I walk bleary-eyed to work. There are kids playing outside and I occasionally will hear "Where is your jacket?!" followed promptly by an "Aw, Mom!"

Despite the mushy ground (and all the ungathered dog poo), it's a great time to be alive. Those of you affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder are probably starting to feel a bit giddy and realize it's easier to wake up in the morning. Those of you with cars have the urge to really clean them. And those of us with visions of locally-grown fresh food are awaiting the return of the farmer's market.

And since it is spring, since there are vegetables that have been grown by people a bit further to our south, and since I want to eat these vegetables, I thought it might be good to introduce you to a few recipes for one of my favorite vegetables. A vegetable that just happens to be on the cusp of its wonderful season. Asparagus! Lovely, lovely aspargus.

I've written about asparagus before, so you may think I'm cheating by rehashing old ingredients. But I find asparagus to be so good that I don't mind rehashing, and I think after you view a few of these recipes, you'll be happy I ventured into familiar territory.

Previously I wrote about roasting asparagus in your oven and making risotto. Now I'd like to tell you about a very quick asparagus and pea salad, asparagus and egg salad (for all those Easter eggs you don't know what to do with), quick asparagus soup, and a hearty pasta with asparagus and shrimp.

Asparagus and Pea Salad with a Sesame Vinagrette
1 pound of fresh asparagus
1 bag of frozen peas
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt
several grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
4 tablespoons of sesame oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a quart of ice water into a bowl large enough to hold the asparagus. Rinse the asparagus upside down under running water. Snap off the end of one piece to determine where they start being tender. Line up the tips of the bunch of asparagus and cut the rest at the same spot as the one you tested so they're all the same length. Place the asparagus in the water once it reaches a boil and let it cook for about 3 minutes. They should be just able to be pierced with a fork. Collect the asparagus from the pot and place them in the ice water bath. Pour the frozen peas into the boiling water and let them cook for about 1-2 minutes. Drain the water from the peas and add the peas to a large serving bowl. Remove the asparagus from the water bath and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut the asparagus into half-inch pieces and add them to bowl with the peas.

In a smaller bowl, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice and sesame oil. Whisk to combine and taste to see if you need to balance the flavors before pouring it over the peas and asparagus. Stir to combine and chill for 20 minutes or longer before serving.
Makes 6-8 servings.

Egg and Asparagus Salad
6 hard boiled eggs (read how to boil eggs here)
3 large stalks of asparagus or 6 small stalks
1/4 of a large bunch of dill
1 teaspoon of salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of chopped pickles
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh shallot
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of plain yogurt (Greek yogurt if possible)

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare the boiled eggs and peel. Increase the heat until the water boils, then add the asparagus. Cut the stalks in half if you need to fit them in the pan. Let them cook for 3 minutes or until they're just barely tender (no more than 5). Remove them from the water and chop them into small slices. Place them into a large bowl. Cut the eggs into small pieces and add to the bowl. Rinse the dill and shake dry. Remove the thick part of the stalk from the dill and mince the green fronds and more tender part of the stalk. Add it and the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Stir to combine and cover. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer. Serve as sandwiches or with crackers as an appetizer for a brunch.
Makes 4 sandwiches, or serves a group as an appetizer.

Asparagus Soup
4 cups of chicken broth
2 thin slices of ginger
juice from one lemon
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1 teaspoon of pumpkin oil or sesame oil (or olive oil)
1/2 pound of asparagus that has been rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped thin
2 ounces of cellophane noodles

Bring the chicken broth, ginger and lemon juice to a boil. Stir in the white wine and the oil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the asparagus and the noodles. Cook for about 3 minutes before serving in small bowls with a sprinkle of fresh scallion on top.
Makes 4 servings.

Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta
1/2 pound of small frozen shrimp with shells and tails removed (pre-cooked is OK)
1 pound of fresh asparagus that has been rinsed and trimmed
1 pound of whole wheat pasta
1 minced shallot
1 teaspoon of dried basil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream (fat-free is OK)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and asparagus to the boiling water and let them cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove the shrimp and asparagus and cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot, basil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, sour cream, and salt and pepper. Taste to balance flavors. Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add it to a large bowl with the asparagus and shrimp. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings as a main course.

While we wait patiently for the death-throes of winter to smother us with snow again, we can at least enjoy the flavors of spring. Even though we have about two months before the farmer's markets return to our area, we can still plan for them and the meals they'll provide. Do you have a favorite spring ingredient that you'd like recipe ideas for? Leave a comment and maybe it will appear in a future column.

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Magda / March 26, 2007 2:55 AM

This isn't a spring ingredient, exactly, but I just got about twenty pounds of carrots and am looking for something to do with them that's a little more exciting than risotto or stew.

Winediva / March 27, 2007 3:28 PM

Hey Magda,

I'm sure Cinnamon will have some good suggestions for you too - but I've found a lot of good recipes for carrot & ginger soups. Try Or maybe bake some carrot cake?

Cinnamon / March 28, 2007 1:37 PM

mashed carrots
carrot slaw
candied carrots
carrot juice
carrot salsa (with mango and coconut?)

That's just off the top of my head. I would suggest finding the website for the carrot growers and seeing if they have recipes. Vegetable growers organizations often do recipe contests and put up what they get back, and sometimes they're weird, but sometimes they're awesome.

amanda / March 28, 2007 2:07 PM

carrot-cashew soup from diet for a small planet is great. I linked to the url from my name.

Magda / March 30, 2007 6:41 PM

Well, so far I've made risotto with grated carrot and used grated carrot in the place of sweet potato in a pudding. I'm definately going to try making some soups, and I've found a couple interesting sounding recipes that use mashed carrot made into patties like a latke. The carrot growers' website is a great idea! Thanks :)


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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