Fabulous Asparagus!

By Michele

Asparagus, officially known as asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family. This popular vegetable comes in a variety of colors, including green, white and purple. It’s used in dishes around the world, including frittatas, pastas and stir-fries. In fact, just half a cup (90 grams) of cooked asparagus has only 20 calories, no fat, no cholesterol and is low in sodium.

Asparagus also possesses small amounts of other micronutrients, including iron, zinc and riboflavin. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient involved in blood clotting and bone health. Asparagus, like other green vegetables, is high in antioxidants. These include vitamin E, vitamin C and glutathione, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.


An interesting tidbit, white asparagus is not genetically altered from the green variety. Instead, the lack of pigment in albino spears results from the absence of sunlight. Farmers pile soil over the emerging spears and cut them off from below to produce the ghostly novelty. Purple asparagus, on the other hand, is a genetically altered variety. It reverts from purple to green when cooked.


It's spring here in the northeast and asparagus is sighted in green markets, as well as in local grocery shops.


All this said, I went off in search of fresh spring asparagus.


White and green asparagus found! At home in my kitchen, I made a white asparagus tart, with roasted peppers and a vinaigrette dressing. The flaky puff pastry delivers a nice buttery crunch, as do the pine nuts. The roasted peppers and dressing round out the flavors in this savory recipe.


As for the green asparagus, I wrapped them in bacon and baked. Given that they are so simple to make, they will certainly become a guilty pleasure!


White Asparagus Tart

Ingredients

Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

1 bunch white asparagus, peeled and trimmed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons heavy cream, or milk

1 roasted red pepper, cut into 10-12 strips

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Dressing

3 tablespoons EVOO

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Unfold pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Remove parchment paper from pastry. Roll out pastry so it’s about an inch bigger on all sides. Pierce the surface multiple times, except for edges.

  3. In a small bowl, mix together the Dijon mustard, cheese and cream. Spread it on your prepared puff pastry, leaving an inch border empty. Lay the asparagus on top and drizzle with some EVOO. Brush the edges of the pastry with an egg wash.

  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are deep golden-brown.

  5. Prepare the dressing by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or small mason jar.

  6. When tart comes out of oven, place sliced pepper strips, scatter pine nuts and drizzle about three teaspoons of dressing on top. Set remainder of dressing on the side to enjoy taste.

Bacon wrapped Asparagus

Ingredients

24 asparagus stalks

8 slices of bacon

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzle

Black pepper, to taste


Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place a wire rack over baking sheet.

3. Wash and trim asparagus stalks.

4. Wrap a bundle of three stalks together with one slice of bacon.

5. Place bundles on wire rack.

6. Drizzle all bundles with EVOO.

7. Sprinkle a generous amount of black pepper over bacon.

8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until desired crispiness.



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