Lifestyles

Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Filling up on local asparagus

My strawberries are already forming little  berries and I can hardly wait for the first feast; however this will come in its own time, and until then, I suppose we have to be satisfied with the GMO supermarket imported  variety — or not.

As for today, I haven’t had my fill of Armstrong asparagus yet and wanted to offer a couple more recipes before the season finishes up for another year. I hope everyone has realized that the asparagus sold locally has very little waste, as they pick it at or near the natural breaking point which results in us not paying for all those inches of inedible tough ends that we have to discard.

The first recipe today is a wonderful quiche that can be made in season and also with frozen asparagus later in the year. It’s great for any brunch or luncheon. The second is a delicious asparagus casserole. It’s a good blend of flavours, with the almonds giving a nice crunch to the dish.

Asparagus

& Mushroom Quiche

5 slices bacon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup portobello mushrooms, stem and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup chopped fresh asparagus

1 (8 inch) unbaked pie shell

1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 eggs

3/4 cup half-and-half cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until evenly brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook and stir until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium and add the portobello mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook asparagus in boiling water until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately drain and run under cold water to cool.

Brush the pie shell with the beaten egg white, if using. Place the onion and mushroom mixture, asparagus, and bacon into the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle the Cheddar and feta cheeses over the vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until smooth. Pour this mixture over the  vegetable and cheese filling.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned on top. Let cool to room temperature before serving.  Delicious!

Asparagus Casserole

1 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into about 3” pieces

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 pinch cayenne pepper

4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed (or grated if you wish)

1/2 cup blanched almond halves

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a medium-sized casserole dish.

Steam asparagus for 1-2 minutes in 3/4 cup water, covered. Remove from pan; run under cold water. Reserve cooking water.

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, peel and chop.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper; blend thoroughly. Gradually stir in 3/4 cup of reserved asparagus water and the milk; cook (stirring constantly) until the sauce is thickened and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, more milk can be added until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.

Layer the asparagus, eggs, cheese, and almonds into the casserole. Repeat the layering until all of the ingredients are used. Spoon the sauce over the layers and sprinkle with crumbs. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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