Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Local asparagus shines

The Victoria Day long weekend is the unofficial start of summer for many in the North Okanagan, and fresh asparagus is ready to go

The first long weekend of the warm season approaches.

Victoria Day celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday which is on the 24th. It is the first popular weekend for spring/summer travel. Lots of people open up their cottages or go camping; others plant gardens, enjoy barbecuing again, or just get away. For many in the Okanagan, it’s the first time for jumping in the lake and for getting the first really bad sunburn of the season.

If you’ll be entertaining this weekend I have two easy, in-season recipes you may like to try. The first is a unique take on lasagna and is perfect as our local asparagus season is well under way. Using canned soup saves time in making a sauce and a blend of cheeses combines with the chicken and asparagus to make a delicious, rich, flavourful dish that will make any meal feel like a special occasion. It’s a perfect make-ahead dish for any long weekend.

Today’s salad recipe is a true celebration of spring. Fresh asparagus in season tastes even better raw than cooked as it’s full of flavour, colour and juice. Shave the stalks as thin as you can and mix a few simple salad ingredients and a creamy avocado dressing, and you have a very special treat.

An added note: today is a significant birthday for my sister Colleen and I’d like to wish her a very happy birthday.

Asparagus and Chicken Lasagna

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. each chopped fresh thyme and finely grated lemon rind

1 can (284 mL) condensed cream of asparagus soup

1/2 cup 1% milk

1 lb. (500 g) asparagus, trimmed and cut in small pieces

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts; grilled to just done, thinly sliced

1 pkg. (250 g) dry-pressed cottage cheese

8 sheets fresh lasagna noodles (or prepare according to pkg. instructions)

1/2 cup shredded Italian 4-cheese mix

In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook garlic, thyme and lemon rind for 30 seconds. Stir in condensed soup, milk, asparagus and chicken; cook until asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in cottage cheese.

Spread 1/4 cup of mixture in 8-inch (2 L) square oven-proof baking dish. Place 1 layer lasagna noodles, cut to fit,  on top;  Spread with one-third of the asparagus mixture. Repeat twice. Sprinkle with four-cheese mixture and cover with foil; bake in 425 F oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes.   Tip: Spray foil with vegetable oil to prevent cheese from sticking to foil.

Ribboned Asparagus

Salad with

Avocado Dressing

1-1/4 lbs asparagus

1 cucumber

16 cherry tomatoes

3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated

For the dressing

3 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

½ ripe avocado, stone removed

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Wash and dry asparagus well. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Using vegetable peeler and starting from bottom end of asparagus, shave upwards to create thin ribbons. Place all ribbons in large serving bowl.

Slice the cucumber lengthways and cut into bite-size pieces. Cut the tomatoes in half and coarsely chop the parsley. Add these to the bowl.

Place the dressing ingredients in a blender and blitz until creamy. Add a dash of oil or water if necessary. Dress and toss the salad so it’s evenly coated. Top with parmesan shavings, then serve. Serves 4.


Vernon Morning Star