Jordan Douglas, MS, HHC

Asparagus is one of the great joys of spring produce, with a season running from mid-April through May here in Virginia. Asparagus is high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, quercetin, and other flavonoids and polyphenols. It’s a good source of fiber, especially insoluble fiber which helps support regular bowel movements.

Asparagus is also rich in folate, potassium, and vitamin K. When buying asparagus, looks for stalks that are firm and plump (not limp and wilted) with closed tips. Look for vibrant color, be it green, purple or white. Asparagus does not store well or keep long, so enjoy it as soon as possible. If you do need to store it for a couple of days, treat it as you would fresh herbs – place in a jar with a few inches of water at the bottom and cover with a plastic bag, or wrap the ends with a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag. Simple grilled or roasted asparagus finished with lemon and salt is a widely beloved side, but asparagus can also be the star of the show. Below, I’m sharing two favorite recipes where asparagus and spring flavors really shine.

Lemony Asparagus-Shallot-Farro Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup farro, dried
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh herbs of choice, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, or basil, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  • Cook the farro: Bring a quart of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Drain as needed.
  • Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the shallot, garlic (to taste), lemon juice and zest, several glugs of good quality olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Once the farro is cooked, add it to the bowl and stir well. Do this while the farro is warm so that it can really absorb the flavor of the dressing. Set aside.
  • In a medium pan, steam sauté the asparagus until tender. Add the chickpeas and more garlic to taste and stir until everything is warmed through and the garlic is aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus and chickpea mixture to the bowl and stir well.
  • Add your herbs and stir again. Taste for seasoning and flavor, adding more lemon, olive oil, herbs, or salt and pepper as desired.
  • Serve warm right away, or let the salad to sit for an hour or two to allow the flavors to really meld. Enjoy!

Asparagus Soup with Pistachio Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2lb asparagus
  • 3T olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 leek (white part only), chopped
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups broth or water

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Trim asparagus ends and place stalks in a single layer on a large sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Drizzle with 1T olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast 10 minutes, shaking pan once during cooking to turn asparagus. Reserve tips for garnish.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, leek, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes, then add potatoes, shallots and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally to allow potatoes to soften and alliums to turn golden. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute, until fragrant. When mixture starts to stick to the pan, deglaze with one cup of broth. Continue to cook, reducing the liquid by half. Add the rest of the broth and simmer 5 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • In batches, purée soup base and roasted asparagus in a blender until smooth. Add additional liquid if desired to reach desired consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt, oil, lemon juice/zest if needed.
  • Garnish with asparagus tips and pistachio cream. Can be served warm or chilled.

Pistachio Cream

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raw, shelled pistachios soaked 1-2 hours then drained and rinsed
  • In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
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