Seasons by the Sea: Recipes 05:23:13

Spring Tips

Braised Asparagus
    Let’s start with a simple French recipe that really lets the asparagus shine. I don’t use a lot of butter, but this kind of dish calls for a good one, and in a fairly generous quantity. This recipe is from Patricia Wells’s “At Home in Provence” cookbook.
    Serves four to six.
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 lbs. medium sized green asparagus, tough ends trimmed
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Coarse sea salt to taste

    In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add asparagus and shake skillet until it falls into a single layer at bottom of pan. Raise heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Season with salt and pepper.
    Reduce heat to low. With spatula, rotate the asparagus as it cooks, turning it so browns slightly on all sides. Cook for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender. Taste for seasoning. With slotted spoon, gently transfer asparagus to a platter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Soup
    This recipe is from “Chez Panisse Vegetables” by Alice Waters. It is so simple and delicious and can be made vegan without the creme fraiche.
    Serves six to eight.
2 lbs. green asparagus
6 cups vegetable stock
Bouquet garni (thyme sprigs, parsley stems, bay leaf)
2 white onions
1 leek
2 red potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Creme fraiche

    Cut or snap off the tough, rooty ends and simmer the asparagus in the stock with bouquet garni for 30 minutes.
    In a deep soup pot, stew the onions, leek, and potatoes, peeled and diced, in the olive oil and a little water. When soft, strain the stock into the pot and bring to a simmer.
    Chop asparagus roughly, reserving the tips to garnish the finished soup, and add to the soup pot. Let simmer five minutes, until asparagus is just tender. Do not overcook or you will lose freshness and color.
    Puree the soup in a blender and pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. You can set the bowl in ice to cool the soup rapidly, which will help it keep a nice color. The soup should be a dense but smooth liquid. Cut the asparagus tips in half lengthwise and parboil for one to two minutes. Serve the soup chilled or reheated to just below a boil, garnished with the asparagus tips, parsley, and creme fraiche.

Pickled Asparagus
    This recipe comes from Jill Musnicki of Sag Harbor. The asparagus can be enjoyed the next day and up to a month or so after pickling.

40 to 50 asparagus spears, cut to three inches
1/3 cup kosher salt
21/2 cups white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. combined various seeds, i.e., peppercorns and dill
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp. salt

    Clean three wide-mouth pint jars.
    Soak three-inch asparagus spears in kosher salt with enough water to cover for about two hours, then rinse well.
    While they are soaking, combine white vinegar, sugar, salt, seeds, and sliced garlic. Boil until sugar dissolves. Stuff jars with asparagus and pour vinegar mixture over. Put lids on and place jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Store in refrigerator.