sparrow grass

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April showers bring May flowers and asparagus! The Collingswood Farmers’ Market began this past Saturday, May 5th and the perennial vegetable was available from many market vendors. I selected three bundles of thin-speared asparagus from Springdale Farms to create two dishes that you should try before the short-lived season ends. With an initial harvest time of 3-4 years, this Spring’s asparagus has been waiting for you.

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Asparagus belongs to the lily family and was known as ‘sparrow grass’ in seventeenth century English. It is super rich in Folate as well as Vitamin A and K and many other nutrients like Potassium and Selenium. The thin spears from Springdale Farms are crisp and mildly sweet when consumed raw, but all of those nutrients become more bioavailable when cooked. Consider slicing the raw spears crosswise for a garnish to get the best of both.

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Vintage cookbooks recommend placing cooked asparagus on toast and serving it with melted butter and a wedge of lemon.

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To make this crustless quiche, see my  squash pie recipe . Substitute 14-16 ounces of thin-speared spring asparagus (sliced crosswise) for the zucchini. Omit the nutmeg.

To make this crustless quiche, see my squash pie recipe. Substitute 14-16 ounces of thin-speared spring asparagus (sliced crosswise) for the zucchini. Omit the nutmeg.

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asparagus on toast

yield: 4 slices of toast

toast
1 loaf bread (sourdough, ciabatta, multigrain, your choice)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (I use Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
salt and pepper, to taste

toppings
32 spears very thin asparagus, rinsed and patted dry
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (I use Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
4 eggs, optional
2-3 scallions, sliced crosswise for garnish, optional
3-5 raw spears very thin asparagus, sliced crosswise for garnish, optional

toast
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Cut four ½-inch or ¾-inch slices of bread from the loaf and place on an unlined sheet pan. Lightly drizzle one or both sides of the bread slices with olive oil (about ½ tsp to each side). Lightly season with salt and pepper. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until golden brown and crusty, or to desired texture. Once done, set aside.

toppings
You may prepare the toppings as the bread is toasting or in advance.

asparagus preparation: The asparagus can be eaten raw, roasted, blanched, steamed, grilled, etc. Because the spears are thin, I focused on two methods – roasting and blanching. In addition, you may slice 3-5 raw spears crosswise to use as a garnish and add texture.

roast: Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or use an oven safe baking rack on a sheet pan. Trim ¼-inch from the bottom end of each asparagus spear. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon of oil. The spears should be very lightly coated (not drenched) and you may use more oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper. The asparagus from Springdale Farms is very thin, so I roasted the spears for 7 minutes, just until tender. Roasting is preference, you may choose to go a little longer if more caramelization is wanted.

blanch: (Requires a water bath) Fill a medium or large pot (size must fit the asparagus) with 4 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Trim ¼-inch from the bottom end of each asparagus spear. Once the water is boiling, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt to the water and allow to come back up to a boil. Set-up your water bath now: I fill a large bowl with one tray of ice cubes and cold water to make ice water. Drop your asparagus into the boiling water and allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. The asparagus from Springdale Farms is very thin, so I boiled the spears for 30 seconds until bright green and then used tongs to move the asparagus from the boiling water to the ice water bath. Allow asparagus to sit in the ice water until ready to use.

eggs: If using eggs, you may prepare them to your liking – poached, fried, etc.

assemble
When ready to assemble, scoop two tablespoons of ricotta cheese on each slice of toast. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and a ½-teaspoon drizzle of olive oil if you wish. Top with 8 (or more) raw, roasted or blanched asparagus spears. If using the egg, place the egg on top, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sliced scallions and raw asparagus.

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