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May 13, 2019 10:54 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Time To Enjoy Fresh Asparagus

May 13, 2019 10:54 AM

By Janeen Sarlin

Every spring I “wax poetic” about asparagus. It’s a universally popular cultivated vegetable which is a member of the lily family. The tenderest stalks are a beautiful apple-green with purple tinged tips. Asparagus contains a good amount of vitamin A and is a fair source of iron and vitamins B and C. Choose firm, bright green stalks with tightly budded (not fuzzy) tips. It’s best to cook asparagus the same day it’s purchased but it will keep three to four days. To store, cut off one-quarter inch of the stalks, stand them upright (as if they were flowers) in an inch of water covered with a paper towel and a plastic bag. If the stalks are thin, don’t peel them. Before cooking, snap off the tough ends wherever they break and trim. With a vegetable peeler remove skins and reserve the peelings for vegetable stock or compost.

To cook asparagus for one or two people, lay five spears on a glass plate, add one tablespoon of water, cover with parchment paper and plastic wrap. Microwave for one minute, immediately plunge into cold running water and drain well.

When cooking a bunch of asparagus, either stand them upright in a steamer or blanch in a large amount of boiling water until crunch tender. Plunge into cold water and drain well.

This asparagus “pancake” is perfect for brunch entertaining on the weekend. Or it’s suitable as a late night supper after the movies or a family weekday supper.

Pairing asparagus with fennel combines two springtime vegetables beautifully with spinach and herbs. Serve this beautiful green soup as the first course at a dinner party or chill and serve it on a hot day. Bon appetit!

Asparagus “Pancake”(Serves 4 to 6)18 to 20 asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled

6 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sea salt, to taste

About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves

Small bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

6 scallions, minced

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

About 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Few flat leaf parsley sprigs for garnishTo prepare:In a steamer or large skillet with boiling salted water, cook peeled asparagus until crunch tender, about 2 minutes. Immediately plunge asparagus into cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. Transfer asparagus to a cutting board, reserve tips and about 3 inches of 6 perfect asparagus stalks for garnish. Roughly chop the remaining asparagus and transfer to a double paper towel lined platter to absorb excess water. Can be done ahead and refrigerated until ready to prepare the pancake.

Chop the herbs and reserve about one heaping tablespoon for garnish.

In a mixing bowl, add eggs and with a table fork, beat the eggs until frothy. Add a splash of cold water and beat until blended. Stir in pepper, pinch of salt, mint, dill, parsley, and scallions and continue to stir until blended. Stir in asparagus.

In a large skillet over moderate high heat, add oil and butter, when the foam subsides, pour the egg mixture into the pan all at once. With a rubber scraper or spatula, evenly spread out the eggs. Cook until the bottom is set, it will have light brown edges, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip or invert the pancake onto a plate and return to the skillet, cook top side, about 2 minutes.

Mix the cheeses together and sprinkle it over the pancake, cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook until the cheese melts. Slide the pancake onto a large warm platter, garnish with reserved asparagus spears and chopped herbs. Cut into equal pie shaped portions and serve at once!Asparagus, Fennel & Spinach Soup(Serves 4)1 pound fresh asparagus, washed

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 bunch scallions or 2 spring onions with greens, finely chopped

1 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small fennel, or 1/2 large fennel bulb, trimmed, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves, washed, roughly chopped

2 cups good quality vegetable stock

About 1 tablespoon apple cider or fresh lemon juice or more to taste

Pepitas Topping:

Raw asparagus tips, (from above), finely chopped

1/2 cup roasted, salted pepitas

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed, stems removed, finely chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Optional ingredient for the topping:

1/2 green chili, finely chopped

About 1/4 cup plain yogurt for drizzling

1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juiceTo prepare:Snap off the tough ends of asparagus and peel if very thick. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Cut the spears diagonally into one-half inch thick slices. In a large saucepan over moderate heat, add coconut oil and heat. Add scallions, garlic, and fennel and sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach, stir well, and season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable stock, cover the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are soft, but still vibrant color. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Press the contents through a fine mesh sieve to remove any strings or chunks. Add vinegar or lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasonings. Can be served hot or cold.

For the topping: Chop the reserved raw asparagus tip and parsley together. If using optional chili, add it here. Drizzle just enough olive oil over the mixture to lightly coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice into yogurt until it is thin enough to drizzle.

To serve (hot or cold): Ladle soup bowls; add a small mound of asparagus mixture and another mound of pepitas. Drizzle yogurt on top and serve at once.

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