What’s Cookin’ – May 28, 2009

Jeanne Briggs

Jeanne Briggs

Cheers to the Spears

by JEANNE BRIGGS

They’re long, green and their tips are packed with fresh flavor. That’s right, it’s asparagus season! Many people view these scrumptious spears as difficult to prepare, and reserve them for special occasions. This nutritious veggie cooks remarkably fast, so your family can raise a fork and say, “Cheers to the spears,” in no time.

Cooking Instructions:  Boil a half inch of water in a large skillet. Roll up a piece of aluminum foil into a tube and place it inside the skillet around the edge. Add one pound of cleaned and trimmed asparagus with tips resting on the foil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. Add to your recipes as required.

Baked Asparagus Cheese Soufflé

6 slices firm bread, crusts removed

6 slices Swiss cheese

6 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons chopped onion

18 cooked asparagus spears

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Arrange the bread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Top each slice of bread with a slice of Swiss cheese. Beat eggs, milk, onion and seasonings together; pour over bread. Bake at 325F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Top each bread slice with 3 of the trimmed asparagus spears. Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese. Bake another 15 minutes or until custard is set. Serves 4 to 6.

Quick Chicken with Asparagus and Provolone

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 eggs beaten

1-1/2 cups Italian-style dry breadcrumbs

1 (15 oz.) can chicken broth

1 (10 oz.) can asparagus, drained

4 slices Provolone cheese

Heat oil in large skillet. Dip chicken in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs. Brown in skillet on both sides. When chicken is browned, drain off oil. Add broth, and place asparagus evenly over chicken. Lay a slice of cheese over each chicken piece. Cover skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Serves 4.

Hot Bacon Asparagus Salad

7 bacon strips, diced

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

1/3 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups torn salad greens

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons bacon drippings. Cut asparagus into 1-1/2-inch pieces; sauté in bacon drippings until crisp-tender. Add vinegar, sugar, mustard, pepper and bacon. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the salad greens and almonds. Add the asparagus mixture and toss gently. Top with the sliced eggs. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Chicken and Asparagus Fettuccine

12 ounces dry fettuccini pasta

2 cups of 1-inch pieces fresh asparagus

1/2 cup butter

2 cups half-and-half cream

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente; add the asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine butter and half-and-half. Cook until thick and bubbly. Season the sauce with garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir in Parmesan cheese; add chicken and heat through. Pour sauce over pasta and asparagus, and toss to coat. Serves 6.

Cream of Fresh Asparagus Soup

1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus

1-1/2 cups chopped onion

6 tablespoons butter

Pinch of salt

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

4 cups hot milk

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Break off and discard tough asparagus bottoms. Cut off tips; set aside. Coarsely chop stalks and cook in a skillet over medium heat with onion in butter, for 8 to 10 minutes. When onions are clear, sprinkle with flour. Continue to stir over lowest heat for 5 to 8 minutes. Slowly add broth, stirring constantly. Cook 8 minutes, until thickened. Cool slightly. In a blender, puree sauce by batches with the milk until thoroughly smooth. Strain to remove pieces that were not blended. Return puree to large Dutch oven. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Heat gently, but do not boil. As soup heats, cook asparagus tips in boiling water until very green, about 2 minutes; drain and add whole tips to soup. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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