Easy Asparagus Recipes
Eating as much fresh local produce for the spring and summer months should be a goal for all of us. What’s better than celebrating the gifts from local farms and the hard work of farmers? The first site of Ontario asparagus, at the farmers market or grocery store, elicits so much excitement for the season of spring and early summer produce. For me and my family, the arrival of asparagus seems to commence the ritual of simple eating. I love this amazing seasonal tasting vegetable that’s low in calories and loaded with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Not much is needed to highlight its flavour. Just a simple drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper, along with a spritz of fresh lemon juice.
Here are a few ideas for cooking asparagus. Whether blanching, pan-frying, roasting or grilling, not much is needed to prep it. Look for stalks of asparagus that are plump and straight. Thin spears tend to be more tender and sweet while the thicker spears can have a stronger asparagus flavour. You will develop a preference the more you eat it. The woody tough ends of the asparagus naturally snap off with your hand. Just place the asparagus spear between your thumb and your forefinger and gently bend the spear until it snaps. It will naturally snap where the woody part of the asparagus spear begins. After snapping you will be left with the tender part that you now can cook. If you feel unsure, use a knife to trim an inch off the ends of each spear of asparagus.
My favourite method of cooking asparagus is grilling. I love that you can just throw it on the grill, nestled beside your protein. You can pop it all in a grill basket or toss it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and using tongs place the asparagus spears on the grill over medium-high heat. Make sure to watch it as it takes little time to cook. Turn after cooking for about two minutes and continue to cook until slightly charred and tender, about another two minutes. Keep it warm while you continue to cook your protein on the grill. Easy!
Makes 4 servings
Warm Asparagus, Mushroom Salad with Feta Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Balsamic Dressing
- 2 lb. asparagus
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup sliced roasted red peppers
- 1/3 cup minced fresh dill
- 8 cups mixed baby salad greens
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Snap off tough ends of asparagus. In large pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook asparagus until tender crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and chill in ice water. Drain on towel.
- Dressing: In bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; stir-fry mushrooms until golden and no liquid remains, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and roasted red pepper, stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing, asparagus and half of the dill. Cook, stirring until heated through, about 2 minutes.
- In large bowl, toss mixed greens with remaining dressing. Divide asparagus mixture on plates, top with small amount of mixed greens. Sprinkle with feta and remaining dill.
Asparagus and Ground Pork Stir-fry
Makes 4 servings
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 lb. asparagus, woody ends removed, cut on the diagonal into 1 – 2 inch pieces
- 8 oz. ground pork
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger (use a 2-inch piece of ginger and keep skin on)
- 1 bunch of green onions, white and pale green parts, finely minced
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a wok or large skillet, heat half the oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Add 2 tablespoon (30 mL) of water. Cover and let steam for 4 minutes. Shaking pan occasionally. Remove lid and let water evaporate, about 1 minute. Transfer cooked asparagus to a plate. Repeat process with remaining oil and asparagus.
- Add ground pork to wok. Continue cooking over medium-high heat. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the pork begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and half of the green onions. Continue cooking until the pork is almost crisp and mixture is aromatic, about 5 minutes.
- Add rice wine, soy sauce and return asparagus to the skillet. Cook, turning to coat in the pork mixture and is heated through, about 2 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with remaining green onions. Serve with rice or rice noodles.
P.S. I will be three years cancer-free this August. I say this as it feels so incredible to get to this point, to look in the rearview mirror and for once, not see cancer.
I remember looking in the mirror and crying after I finished treatment. I didn’t feel like I was in my body. Who was I? It wasn’t me staring back. I had put on weight (about 30 lbs. due to steroids and chemically-induced menopause), I was bald except for a few baby strands of hair poking through, I was completely flat on one side due to having my right breast removed. I had permanent tattoos from radiation and many scars from chemotherapy.
My advice to others? Give yourself time. Take a deep breath. You will find yourself again. You may never be the same person, but you will begin to feel more like you. Don’t be hard on yourself. With each month and each year…you will feel better.
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Kate Dowhan graduated with honours English from Huron College, at the University of Western Ontario. From there she attended and graduated with honours from the Stratford Chef School. She apprenticed and worked within several kitchens before working for magazines. She freelanced for Homemakers magazine, Chatelaine magazine and Food and Drink Magazine. She became a full time member of the Canadian Living Test Kitchen in 2001 and worked there for six years.
Kate started her consulting business in 2007, and has worked with many high-profile brands as a recipe developer and recipe editor. Kate has a passion for delicious, reliable recipes that has established her reputation as a go-to food expert.
Her easy-going style is reflected in her recipes that are both approachable for home-cooks and on-trend for the foodie at heart. As a breast cancer survivor (diagnosed in 2017) she is conscious of producing healthy, seasonal family pleasing recipes. She loves to cook for her three children, and husband.