Traditional recipes

Asparagus – gorgeous but not here for long!

Asparagus – gorgeous but not here for long!

By Ren Behan

St George’s Day officially marks the start of the British asparagus season. The season is short, usually just eight weeks long, during which British growers guarantee some of the freshest asparagus around. In some cases, particularly in East Anglia, the asparagus on the shelf might even have been picked just a few hours earlier. So, it’s a case of keeping your eyes open and grabbing some UK-grown asparagus while you can. Look out, too, for asparagus festivals and asparagus recipes galore.

British asparagus is usually green, but there are also white (which are force-grown underground) and purple varieties, so always check the label of origin. The spears should be straight and firm. At the start of the season you’ll notice that the spears might be thinner, so just wash and eat or cook as they are. Towards the end of the season the spears will be a bit chunkier and will need a few minutes longer to cook. You might need to snap off the woodier ends.

Once you’ve got your hands on some brilliant-green spears, the golden rule is – don’t overcook them! You can eat asparagus raw, so that should give you an indication as to how short the cooking time need be.

Asparagus is incredibly simple to cook. Bring a big pan of water to the boil and plunge the asparagus spears in for just three-to-four minutes. If your spears are thicker, they might need up to five minutes. Drain them once cooked and serve as soon as possible. To keep that bright green colour, you can pop them into some iced water after they’ve been cooked. If you prefer, you can steam asparagus for a similar length of time as when boiling.

How about roasting your asparagus? Heat the oven to around 200 degrees Celsius, take a large baking tray, drizzle the asparagus with a little olive oil and roast for fifteen minutes. For a little extra flavour, try adding a couple of whole cloves of garlic to the tin and grate over a little lemon zest.

You can griddle asparagus, too, with olive oil, lemon and parmesan if you fancy it, or just plain, so delicious.

Classic asparagus accompaniments include melted butter, Hollandaise sauce and poached eggs, or you can use the asparagus as dipping sticks for softly boiled eggs. I love adding asparagus to my salads. Try lightly boiling, steaming or griddling the spears and serving them with some Mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and a softly poached egg. Spring pasta dishes can easily be brightened up with some fresh asparagus, or try Jamie’s Asparagus, mint and lemon risotto.

Learn all about asparagus at the Vegepedia. However you eat yours, be sure to make the most of the short British season whilst it’s here.

How to Cook Asparagus in a Pan

Sometimes the simple ways are the best way. Today I’m going to show you how to cook asparagus in a pan .

I like the crunchy texture of asparagus, and while it’s not my favorite vegetable, I know it’s really good for me. So, I’m always looking for different ways to cook it up and, of course, easy ways to make the veggie.

Once you know how to cook fresh asparagus in a pan , you have one of the simplest ways to make this vegetable. Asparagus makes a good partner with mashed potatoes, grilled chicken, baked fish, and much more. I like to throw it into a vegetable medley as well, but to make the asparagus extra special, it’s not a bad idea to cook it up separately in a pan .

Shaved asparagus frittata

As a person who at least two to three nights a week doesn’t understand why we plan menus and grocery lists when we could just be eating an egg on toast, scrambled, crispy, poached or soft-cooked and smashed, I, too, would expect this site to have more frittata recipes than it does. (It has one. Sorry.) But I don’t make them much at all because they always feel like a lot of work for something that’s essentially a baked omelet with none of the 2-minute butter-drenched speed of a French one. (We’re also on an omelet kick.)

I blame the parcooked vegetables. Be they peas or broccolini, they almost always requiring trimming (i.e. knife and cutting board), a pot of boiling water, a colander to drain them and then usually an ice bath so they keep their perky green crunch, after which you get to drain them again. Oh and then you’ll probably want to dab them dry on paper towels and all of this is before you even add them to the egg mixture. Maybe you enjoy a ramp frittata? Me too, but they’re going to need to be sauteed for a bit before you add eggs. It’s not like making croissants or anything, but the tiny tasks add up to something that usually outmatches my 5:45pm motivation level.

My other gripe is that although I love my cast-iron skillet endlessly and think I keep it well-seasoned, my frittatas always stick, which leads to scrubbing and the grumpiness that comes from messing with a hard-won finish.

But, we were away for a long weekend — with 0 of 2 children with us, first time ever — eating our weight in Montreal bagels, poutine, pastries, restaurants where children would be unwelcome and a lot of daytime champagne* and while easing back in yesterday afternoon, a spring frittata for dinner suddenly seemed like the ideal antidote. Enlisting my favorite asparagus technique — using a peeler to create long ribbons — ensured that no precooking is required. Crumbled soft goat cheese requires no grating. A few crisped slices of proscuitto crisped at the bottom of the skillet are a cinch and tasty, but we found decidedly not essential here. I found that using more oil than usual and not moving the eggs at all once they hit the pan created a frittata that didn’t stick at all. And finally, as room-temperature frittatas are the norm in Italy, these work well for days you’re ambling haphazardly towards the table, hoping to keep that vacation-y feeling a little bit longer.

* which at least one of us worked off running their first half-marathon that person was, predictably, not me. P.S. If you’re ever curious about what I’m up to when I’m not here, my personal instagram (@debperelman) is the way to find out — many Montreal outtakes there too the site instagram (@smittenkitchen) is a great way to find out what’s new on the site, or I think is timely for a revisit.

Shaved Asparagus Frittata

  • I added a few slices of proscuitto that I’d first crisped in the pan. While they were certainly not unwelcome, you’re not going to need them here to make a great, even vegetarian, frittata.
  • My favorite peeler for ribbon-ing asparagus, and well, basically everything is a y-shaped one. I have this one. I like it so much get stressed when it’s in the dishwasher and I have to be away from it for an hour.
  • I ended up expecting to use 4 ounces of goat cheese but only used 2. Use the amount that looks good to you if you buy too much, the extra is great crumbled on at the end, or basically on anything, in my opinion. You could, of course, use a handful of any other cheese that you prefer here. Frittatas are flexible.

Serves 6 in dinner-sized wedges, presuming a salad or something else on the side. Takes about 10 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook, tops.

1/2 pound asparagus, cleaned, not trimmed
2 ounces thinly sliced proscuitto (optional, see Note up top)
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (to taste)

Prepare the asparagus: No need to snap off the tough ends of your asparagus. Lay a single stalk on its side on a cutting board. Holding onto the tough end, use a vegetable peeler to peel ribbons away from the tough end (and your hand) right through the soft tip. Discard the tough ends once you’re done peeling.

[As you get to the bottom of your stalk, you might find that the raised edge of your peeler is keeping the blade from shaving the asparagus as thin as you’d like. For this, I move the asparagus to the edge of the cutting board with the peeler blade half-off so you can get closer. Just be careful not to shave your cutting board. :) ]

Crisp the proscuitto: If you’re using the proscuitto, heat the 12-inch ovenproof skillet you’ll use for the final frittata over medium heat. Lay slices in a single layer (will need to do this in two batches) and cook them until lightly brown underneath and curling. Flip them for another 20 to 30 seconds then transfer them to paper towels to blot off the extra oil and cool. Repeat with remaining proscuitto. You’ll use the pan again in a minute.

Vigorously beat your eggs with the milk or cream, plus salt and pepper until well-combined. Stir in scallions and crumble in crisp proscuitto, if using. Gently add asparagus peels, just swishing the egg mixture over them.

Heat your skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Let it heat fully, then swish it around so it goes up the sides of the pan. Pour in asparagus and egg mixture, nudging the asparagus around so it mostly stays level with the eggs. Crumble goat cheese over, to taste. Cook gently (lowering the heat to medium-low if needed) for about 5 minutes, until the edges are set and brown but it’s still loose and eggy on top. Transfer skillet to the broiler and cook for another 1 to 3 minutes, keeping a close eye on it, until eggs are set on top.

Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges, or longer if you’d like to eat it at room temperature.

If you choosing to eat asparagus raw, we encourage purple asparagus since it lacks bitterness and is instead sweet and fruity. Trim ½ inch of the ends and chop into ¼ inch pieces. Toss with sea salt and pepper and serve as desired.

To retain asparagus’s vibrant color and enhance the flavor, you can blanch it for a quick cooking method. Simply bring a pot of water to boil and have a nearby bowl of ice water ready. Add trimmed asparagus to the boiling water and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and quickly plunge into the bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain and season with sea salt, lemon juice, or other desired topping.

4 Tasty Asparagus Recipes for a Springtime Meatless Monday Meal

Spring is in the air -- and on our market stands. And there&aposs perhaps nothing more telling when spring has arrived than the first spring asparagus.

These tasty treats can be green, white or purple. Whichever you prefer, pick up a bunch and start cooking! While it can be tempting to throw the whole lot in the oven and roast them to perfection, asparagus are just as tasty in these Meatless Monday asparagus recipes.

Asparagus may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering pizza toppings, but this gluten-free asparagus pizza with cauliflower crust may very well change your mind. A totally wheat-free crust forms the cheesy, flavorful base, which is absolutely perfect when topped with spring asparagus. Use the ricotta spread topping in the recipe, or top the pizza with your favorite red pizza sauce.

Asparagus definitely has a powerful flavor, but that doesn&apost mean it can&apost play well with others! Earthy asparagus is the perfect pair for shiitake mushrooms, and tangy goat cheese brings everything together in this delightful brown rice pasta dish with a unique pumpkin seed pesto for added flavor.

Pasta image via Shutterstock: Robyn Mackenzie

We&aposre all familiar with traditional basil pestos, but have you ever thought of jazzing this sauce up with some asparagus? Asparagus pesto is a very tasty accompaniment to pasta, and as an added bonus, it can be a great way to introduce this spring veggie to kids. If you make this pesto all spring long, you can add some roasted tomatoes as soon as they start becoming available in your local market.

If you like eggplant parmesan, you&aposll love our asparagus parmesan. It&aposs far less fussy than the original, with no frying required -- that makes it much healthier to boot! Serve this tasty combo of red onion, Roma tomato and asparagus with your favorite pasta, and you&aposll be converting even fans of the veal and chicken versions of the Italian-American classic.

Smoky pork, asparagus and spring onion skewers

Pork fillet cooks quickly, so it’s ideal paired with asparagus, which takes no time to char to perfection. You will need six long metal skewers for this – by threading the meat and vegetables on to a double skewer, you’ll keep everything secure and make turning easy.

Prep 30 min
Mainate 1 hr+
Cook 10 min
Serves 4

500g pork fillet (tenderloin)
1 garlic clove
, peeled and finely chopped
1–2 tsp smoked paprika, to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
asparagus, trimmed and sliced into thirds
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced into thirds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to garnish

Trim away any fat and membrane from the pork, then cut the fillet across the grain into 5mm-thick slices, dropping them into a bowl as you go. Add the garlic, paprika, oil and vinegar, then season and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for one to two hours, then stir in the asparagus and spring onions until coated in the seasoned oil.

Take a skewer and thread alternate pieces of pork, asparagus and spring onion on to it. Once the skewer is full, carefully thread a second skewer back through from the other end, so you end up with two skewers through the meat and vegetables, one down each side. Repeat with the remaining meat and vegetables, to make three double skewers.

Fire up the barbecue ready for direct cooking. Lay the skewers directly on to the grill over the fire and cook for 10 minutes, turning and rotating once or twice, so they cook evenly. Season and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

The Best Salmon You've Ever Had Is Slow-Baked in Just 22 Minutes

What's not to love about salmon? It's healthy, delicious, and easy to find at any grocery store. This fish is quick-cooking enough for a weeknight, yet fancy enough for company. When gently, slowly cooked, salmon's inherent fattiness transforms the fish into a super moist and succulent main. Our test kitchen set out to determine the perfect salmon slow-cooking technique, as well as a just-right side to complement the fish. Here's what we asked ourselves:

We love slow-baking salmon for so many reasons. While baking, the fat renders gradually and gives the fish a luscious, silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture. This technique ensures more even cooking than searing does, and basically guarantees the perfect medium rare fillet.

Everything You Need to Know About Salmon

But our favorite thing about slow-baked salmon? It doesn't make your house smell fishy! Cooking the salmon at a low temperature is essentially odorless. We're always grateful for recipes that don't have aromas that linger long after dinner is over.

What's more, if you cook the salmon in single-serving portions (instead of one large piece) and choose the optimal oven temperature, slow-baking can actually be pretty fast. We tried the slow-baking technique at three oven temperatures: 250°F, 275°F, and 300°F. 250°F worked well and rendered a lovely texture, but we wondered if we could shave a few minutes off the cooking time. The fish baked at 275°F cooked a little faster and the texture was basically identical to the 250°F fillet. (Plus our asparagus got a little more tender at 275°F—more on that in a second). At 300°F, the texture of the fish started to change. The outside cooked a little more quickly than the interior and it started to flake and dry out ever so slightly. So we picked 275°F as the ideal oven temp.

Baked salmon is great, but what else could we add to this recipe to make it a little more exciting, while still keeping the prep time short? Dijon mustard adds great heat and tang to almost anything, so we started by spreading our fillets with a couple of teaspoons. A little texture seemed like a good idea, so we added panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) for crunch. And finally, for a smoky heat, we dusted the fillets with smoked paprika. These three ingredients take just 5 minutes to add but make a huge difference in taste.

Once we had our baking time and temp sorted out for the salmon, we tried to pick the best vegetable to add to this dish. We tried green beans and sugar snap peas, but asparagus won us over in the end. Baking the asparagus at 275°F renders it crisp tender, it just needs a five minute head start in the oven before adding the salmon. Which is perfect, because that's how long it takes to prep salmon fillets for the oven. The resulting dish is all we could ask for: a quick, simple, gorgeous, and super-tasty one-pan dinner with the easiest clean-up ever.

Cheesy Ham and Asparagus Quiche

If you are looking for a light and healthy breakfast recipe, I&rsquom sorry to tell you but this isn&rsquot it! You might want to take a detour over to this Light Mexican Breakfast Casserole or or these delicious Banana Protein Pancakes if healthy is what you are looking for. This Cheesy Ham and Asparagus Quiche on the other hand is rich and decadent and oh so good! A flaky pie crust is topped with a creamy Parmesan layer, ham and green onion custard and topped with fresh asparagus for savory recipe perfect for a holiday brunch or dinner paired with a salad.

I debated back and forth with what I wanted to do with the electric stove that was left with the kitchen before we renovated it. Ultimately I decided I wanted to leave it in the basement for extra oven space during holidays. It was was definitely going to be put to good use over the weekend. I planned on cooking the hams in it so I would have adequate space in my kitchen oven for the potatoes, rolls, etc.

How to Buy Lentils

Buy lentils from stores with a relatively fast turnover, as lentils on the shelf can become old and shriveled. You can still consume lentils that are past their prime, but they will not cook as quickly and may never achieve the same texture as their fresher counterparts.

While it&aposs always best to choose organic whenever you can, lentils haven&apost made it onto the Dirty Dozen list. There are, however, other concerns. Lentil growers use chemical drying agents before selling their produce, including herbicides like glyphosate, to make sure that dried lentils are ready for sale. For this reason, it&aposs always a good idea to opt for organic when you can.

Lentils come in many different varieties, which are distinguishable based on color, size, and form.

Some lentils are sold whole, while others are sold split. Split lentils will also have their outer skin removed, making them far quicker to cook. The downside of split lentils is that they usually do not hold their shape as well once cooked.

Always choose the variety of lentil that best suits your recipe, and don&apost be afraid to experiment. Here are just a few of our favorite lentil varieties to get you started:

  • Beluga lentils get their name from their resemblance to caviar: these tiny black lentils have a rich, robust flavor and hold up well once cooked. Cook for between 25 and 30 minutes.
  • Puy lentils are a French variety of green lentil that have a stronger, peppery flavor. They were the first vegetable to earn AOC protected status in France. They can take between 20 and 45 minutes to cook, depending on their size. They are excellent in salads, as they hold up well when cooked and have a mild, earthy flavor that soaks up vinaigrettes perfectly.
  • Brown lentils are one of the most common types of lentils. They actually encompass a number of varieties, including Spanish Brown and German Brown, and they usually take between 20 and 30 minutes to cook. They tend to go a bit mushy and are best in stews.
  • Coral lentils or masoor dal are hulled and split red lentils with a sweet, nutty flavor. They break down almost immediately when cooked, making them perfect for dals.
  • Red lentils are the same variety as coral lentils, unsplitਊnd sometimes not even hulled -- if they are a brighter red or orange color, they&aposre likely hulled, where as if they&aposre more of a muted brownish-red, they aren&apost. Red lentils have a sweet, nutty flavor. Like their hulled cousins, red lentils do tend to get mushy during cooking, which is why they are great in soups.
  • Macachiados lentils are large, yellow lentils found in Mexico. They are some of the longest to cook, taking up to 45 minutes. They have a relatively mild flavor and are great in soups and stews.

Recipe 4: I opted to make the crispy potatoes with lemon and parsley from "It's All Easy"

When I decided to make the zucchini soup for dinner, I figured I would need something else on the side to actually feel, you know, fulfilled by my meal (and I was right), so I decided on the crispy potatoes. They seemed easy enough and the ingredient list was super manageable.

Basically, you boil potatoes, smash them a bit when they're done, then pan-fry them until they're crispy. It's not the easiest potato recipe in the world, but I also wouldn't ever call it hard, so it works.

I thought the potatoes, which are covered in lemon, sea salt, garlic, and parsley, would be super tasty, but in my opinion, they were just OK. They were good and I enjoyed them, but I don't know if I would make them again because they weren't anything incredible or truly impressive to me. At least they gave me something else to eat other than the soup.

Verdict: Just OK. They seemed to lack a little flavor, somehow, but they also weren't terrible.