ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Home with the Lost Italian: Three ways to enjoy springtime asparagus

While you can eat asparagus plain this way with just a bit of oil and seasoning added, Tony loves to give it a bit of Italian flair with his recipe for Stewed Asparagus, which features blanched asparagus, vine ripened tomatoes, garlic, extra virg...

Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
We are part of The Trust Project.

It's asparagus season, and we're having a hard time keeping that good news to ourselves. In fact, we could practically shout it from the rooftops, our enthusiasm is so unguarded for this succulent springtime delicacy. Instead, we'll express our excitement in written volume, with three excellent ways to showcase these lovely spears of spring. Throughout history, asparagus has been hailed as a green of the gods, a favorite of kings and a healer of all due to its many nutritional and alleged medicinal properties. The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was so fond of asparagus that he had it grown year-round in his hothouses at Versailles. And in Germany their love for this royal vegetable is so keen that two regions, Baden-Württemburg and Lower Saxony, are devoted not only to growing asparagus, but celebrating its arrival each spring with travel routes and annual Spargelfests (asparagus festivals), which occur throughout the regions between April and June 24. Gourmands come from all over to travel the route, either by car, bus or bicycle, in celebration of asparagus. We share their passion for this spring vegetable, which has been a perennial spring favorite of ours each year in this column. Past recipes we've shared include Sarello's asparagus bleu cheese soup, honey gorgonzola asparagus salad, asparagus frittata and grilled asparagus spears, and we never tire of coming up with new ways to enjoy our beloved asparagus. But why do we love it so?

Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Asparagus is an elegant vegetable in every way, from its incredible superfood nutritional status to its appearance, texture and taste. In Germany, the white varieties are most common but they can be difficult to find in everyday grocery stores here in North America, where the green varieties are more prevalent. When in season, asparagus stalks should be slender and firm, with purplish tips that spring back gently when your fingers run over them. Asparagus has a mild flavor that lends itself well to other flavors like lemon, garlic and vinegar, making it perfect for soups, salads and especially nice in an omelet or frittata. When we grill it, we simply toss it with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, or if we're serving it with an assortment of grilled veggies we might drizzle it with a little red wine vinaigrette. The three recipes we're sharing today all call for blanched asparagus, which is a simple cooking technique of plunging the vegetable into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green, and then transferring immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop further cooking. While you can eat asparagus plain this way with just a bit of oil and seasoning added, Tony loves to give it a bit of Italian flair with his recipe for Stewed Asparagus, which features blanched asparagus, vine ripened tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, white wine, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. The delicate nature of asparagus makes it a perfect fit with Asian flavors, too, and we love to dress it with an easy Honey Soy Sesame dressing, garnished with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds. served next to salmon, pork or shrimp. One of my favorite new ways to feature asparagus is a pretty green dip I make using one bunch of asparagus, cream cheese, garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh mint and Parmesan cheese. We serve it warm from the oven, but Tony loves it cold, too. However you like it, we hope you'll take time to explore the wonderful world of asparagus this spring. Stewed Asparagus and Tomatoes 1 bunch asparagus (about 10 to 11 ounces), blanched and then cut into 2-inch pieces 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced Pinch of red pepper flakes ⅓ cup white wine 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, medium-diced Pinch of kosher salt Pinch of black pepper Zest of one small lemon to garnish Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain, cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add white wine and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until tomatoes start to break down, becoming a sauce. Add the cut blanched asparagus and mix together. Continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes then add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with lemon zest. Serve and enjoy. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2454310","attributes":{"alt":"Asparagus dip is made with cream cheese, Parmesan, mint garlic and crushed red pepper. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor","class":"media-image","height":"344","title":"Asparagus dip is made with cream cheese, Parmesan, mint garlic and crushed red pepper. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"480"}}]]Asparagus with Honey Soy Sesame Dressing 1 bunch asparagus (about 10 to 11 ounces), blanched 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon white and/or black sesame seed for garnish Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine all other ingredients but the sesame seeds, until well mixed. Arrange the blanched asparagus on a platter and drizzle with the dressing, then garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve warm or cold. Sarah's Asparagus Mint Dip 1 bunch asparagus (10 to 11 ounces), blanched 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened ¼ cup Parmesan cheese 1 garlic clove 1 pinch red pepper flakes 3 large mint leaves, washed and stems removed Kosher salt Black pepper Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes and pulse until mixed together. Add the asparagus and mint leaves and pulse again until well incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Transfer dip to a heatproof bowl and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until bubbly and light golden brown on top. Serve with fresh bell peppers and pita chips. Dip can be refrigerated for 24 hours before baking.   "Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com and their blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.It's asparagus season, and we're having a hard time keeping that good news to ourselves. In fact, we could practically shout it from the rooftops, our enthusiasm is so unguarded for this succulent springtime delicacy. Instead, we'll express our excitement in written volume, with three excellent ways to showcase these lovely spears of spring. Throughout history, asparagus has been hailed as a green of the gods, a favorite of kings and a healer of all due to its many nutritional and alleged medicinal properties. The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was so fond of asparagus that he had it grown year-round in his hothouses at Versailles. And in Germany their love for this royal vegetable is so keen that two regions, Baden-Württemburg and Lower Saxony, are devoted not only to growing asparagus, but celebrating its arrival each spring with travel routes and annual Spargelfests (asparagus festivals), which occur throughout the regions between April and June 24. Gourmands come from all over to travel the route, either by car, bus or bicycle, in celebration of asparagus. We share their passion for this spring vegetable, which has been a perennial spring favorite of ours each year in this column. Past recipes we've shared include Sarello's asparagus bleu cheese soup, honey gorgonzola asparagus salad, asparagus frittata and grilled asparagus spears, and we never tire of coming up with new ways to enjoy our beloved asparagus. But why do we love it so? [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2454307","attributes":{"alt":"Asparagus is served Italian style with lemon zest and olive oil. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor","class":"media-image","height":"642","title":"Asparagus is served Italian style with lemon zest and olive oil. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"1200"}}]] Asparagus is an elegant vegetable in every way, from its incredible superfood nutritional status to its appearance, texture and taste. In Germany, the white varieties are most common but they can be difficult to find in everyday grocery stores here in North America, where the green varieties are more prevalent. When in season, asparagus stalks should be slender and firm, with purplish tips that spring back gently when your fingers run over them. Asparagus has a mild flavor that lends itself well to other flavors like lemon, garlic and vinegar, making it perfect for soups, salads and especially nice in an omelet or frittata. When we grill it, we simply toss it with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, or if we're serving it with an assortment of grilled veggies we might drizzle it with a little red wine vinaigrette. The three recipes we're sharing today all call for blanched asparagus, which is a simple cooking technique of plunging the vegetable into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green, and then transferring immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop further cooking. While you can eat asparagus plain this way with just a bit of oil and seasoning added, Tony loves to give it a bit of Italian flair with his recipe for Stewed Asparagus, which features blanched asparagus, vine ripened tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, white wine, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. The delicate nature of asparagus makes it a perfect fit with Asian flavors, too, and we love to dress it with an easy Honey Soy Sesame dressing, garnished with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds. served next to salmon, pork or shrimp. One of my favorite new ways to feature asparagus is a pretty green dip I make using one bunch of asparagus, cream cheese, garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh mint and Parmesan cheese. We serve it warm from the oven, but Tony loves it cold, too. However you like it, we hope you'll take time to explore the wonderful world of asparagus this spring. Stewed Asparagus and Tomatoes 1 bunch asparagus (about 10 to 11 ounces), blanched and then cut into 2-inch pieces 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced Pinch of red pepper flakes ⅓ cup white wine 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, medium-diced Pinch of kosher salt Pinch of black pepper Zest of one small lemon to garnish Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain, cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add white wine and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until tomatoes start to break down, becoming a sauce. Add the cut blanched asparagus and mix together. Continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes then add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with lemon zest. Serve and enjoy.

Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Grilled Asian vinaigrette asparagus is garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Asparagus with Honey Soy Sesame Dressing 1 bunch asparagus (about 10 to 11 ounces), blanched 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon white and/or black sesame seed for garnish Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine all other ingredients but the sesame seeds, until well mixed. Arrange the blanched asparagus on a platter and drizzle with the dressing, then garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve warm or cold. Sarah's Asparagus Mint Dip 1 bunch asparagus (10 to 11 ounces), blanched 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened ¼ cup Parmesan cheese 1 garlic clove 1 pinch red pepper flakes 3 large mint leaves, washed and stems removed Kosher salt Black pepper Cut a bit of the bottom end off each asparagus spear. Blanch the asparagus by plunging into a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green; remove and transfer immediately to bowl of ice water for one minute. Drain and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes and pulse until mixed together. Add the asparagus and mint leaves and pulse again until well incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Transfer dip to a heatproof bowl and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until bubbly and light golden brown on top. Serve with fresh bell peppers and pita chips. Dip can be refrigerated for 24 hours before baking.   "Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com and their blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Related Topics: RECIPESFOOD
What to read next
Meet the board members of The Arts Partnership and find out what inspires them to support the arts in our community.
A newly published children’s book by Red Lake author Elizabeth Barrett and illustrator Jonathan Thunder brings the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth to colorful life for young and old.
Doug Hamilton, 72, of Fargo, died Friday, Aug. 5, 2022 of complications of acute myeloid leukemia.
Craig Samborski said it's almost like a religion. People have wept with joy upon seeing it for the first time. They’ve flown to the U.S. from Japan and other countries to see it in person. A young couple each had the duck tattooed on their ankles and tracked him down to take a selfie. He gets at least a dozen emails a day from fans.