Summer is nearly here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in comforting fare, especially when it stars seasonal produce. This Risotto with Asparagus, featured in Food Network Magazine, uses two kinds of cheese, nutty Parmesan and tangy Robiola, to pack in plenty of flavor and lend the signature creamy texture that risotto is known for. Using an aromatic thyme-and-asparagus broth instead of the usual chicken stock to slowly cook the rice keeps this risotto meatless without skimping on any of the taste. Serve tender asparagus tips on top to add a subtle texture to the plate.
When asparagus first appears at farmers markets in late March, we get a little overeager. Sure, the bright-green stalks can be found in supermarkets year-round, but in-season asparagus is a completely different vegetable when it comes to both flavor and texture. Nothing screams spring like crisp, sweet asparagus at its peak. Here are nine ways to ensure that you won’t get tired of it all season long.
Winter may have been the time to bundle yourself up in sweaters and coats, but springtime calls for bundling of a whole different sort. This season, bundle up slender spears of asparagus — which is at its very peak right now — in all kinds of ways. Not only does this all-wrapped-up method mean easy, breezy serving, but it also brings big flavor to fresh, tender spears, which are tall, skinny and made for bundling.
Make a Bacon Blanket
Hey, if you’re going to wrap anything in anything, one of those things should definitely be bacon, right? In her Asparagus Bundles, Trisha Yearwood doesn’t stop at wrapping the asparagus with the salty staple. From there, she douses the dish in a buttery brown sugar-soy sauce mixture before baking.
There’s a time and a place for a really involved recipe — and cooking with fresh, seasonal asparagus in springtime is not one of those times. It doesn’t take much for a side of asparagus to shine. When in-season asparagus is simply roasted, steamed or grilled, its innate flavors are given the chance to come out without any distractions. In the spirit of loving asparagus in its truest state, each of these spring-focused recipes is as simple as it gets, using just eight ingredients at the very most.
With just four ingredients on the roster, Ina Garten’s Roasted Asparagus (pictured above) reins in more than 300 reviews and a five-star rating. Simply drizzle fresh asparagus with quality olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, as well as freshly ground black pepper, and roast until tender but still crisp. Watch Ina Garten make it herself and you’ll never have lackluster asparagus again.
Along with (slightly) warmer weather and longer days, the spring season brings with it an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. From ruby-red rhubarb and a plethora of pea varieties to vibrant stalks of asparagus, there’s no shortage of produce ripe for the picking this time of year, and surely there’s a myriad of ways to put it to work in your favorite dishes. When it comes to asparagus, simply roasting the veggie is a tried-and-true method — and for good reasons; it’s a quick fix and family-friendly — but when you want to dress up these simple stalks, try pairing them with fresh lemon and herbs in a buttery tart.
Food Network Kitchen’s recipe for a Spring Asparagus Tart (pictured above) takes advantage of store-bought puff pastry to turn out this golden-brown, satisfying tart in less than an hour. While the buttery pastry provides a satisfying base with a chewy, crispy bite, the lemony spread of mascarpone mixed with chives and tarragon offers a rich, creamy bed for the asparagus. Follow Food Network Kitchen’s lead and artfully arrange the asparagus stalks in opposite directions for a stunning presentation, then round out the meal with fresh greens for big-bash events and low-key gatherings alike.
If asparagus isn’t on your kids’ list of approved foods (it could be!), try a bridge ingredient to help them warm up to those in-season stalks. That means, serve asparagus with another favorite food or flavor, or prepare it using a technique you know they like. Find out how to pair asparagus with bacon, lemon, Parmesan cheese and more.
Ina Garten’s Roasted Asparagus (pictured above): Roasted vegetables are always a hit with my four kids, so it’s a no-brainer that we’d try Ina’s fan-favorite recipe for asparagus.
Kids don’t always love eating the green stuff. But instead of offering less of it, one of my favorite techniques is adding things they do like to any given dish. Take asparagus. Our toddler loves lemons, so it’s a go-to trick for encouraging her to try new foods. (It also works for previously refused foods, but I’m sure that never happens at your place.)
1. Our favorite way to make asparagus is sauteed in a pan with olive oil and a handful of peas. Add a few shavings of salty Parmesan cheese on top and let the kids squeeze their own lemon at the table.
2. Or try asparagus on homemade pizza with big drops of fresh ricotta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano.
3. Never underestimate the power of roasting veggies. A pan of asparagus with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a dash of salt will be amazing after 10 minutes of roasting at 425 degrees F. You might even get a cheer, but I always settle for at least a bite.
Given that most produce is available in grocery stores year round, it’s easy to forget that fruits and vegetables indeed have seasons in which they’re at their peak of freshness, when they’re the most colorful and flavorful — and not to mention the most economical. For asparagus, that time to shine is early-to-middle springtime, which means that the bundles at farmers’ markets and supermarkets right now are some of the best you’ll find all year. Celebrate the season’s bounty by putting asparagus to work in quick, family-friendly recipes like vegetable side dishes, healthful salads and quick pastas. We’ve rounded up Food Network’s top-five asparagus dishes — a mix of traditional and creative takes on this simple-to-make vegetable — ideal for casual weeknight suppers and dressed-up dinners alike. Check out our favorite picks below, then browse Food Network’s entire collection of asparagus recipes to find more fresh inspiration.
5. Corn and Asparagus Salad — In just 20 quick minutes, Paula dresses tender asparagus and vibrant corn with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette for a light side dish that complements any hearty entree.
4. Quinoa Salad With Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Black Olives — Think of quinoa as a blank canvas through which you can showcase favorite ingredients and textures, like Bobby does in his five-star recipe by adding to it trimmed asparagus, fresh thyme and creamy goat cheese.
When shopping for asparagus, look for firm, clean and straight stalks. Wobbly stalks and discolored ends are telltale signs not to buy. Use a sharp knife to trim only the very bottom from the stalk; breaking it off causes more of the bottom to go to waste. With “pencil” asparagus, I find the stalks too thin to peel. For larger asparagus, I peel them (because the outer skin can be tough once cooked) and leave the top two inches intact. Not planning to use them right away? Fresh asparagus should be kept refrigerated. Placing the stalks upright in a little bit of water (as you would a bouquet of flowers, for example) can extend its shelf life.
I like asparagus al dente, a.k.a slightly crunchy. A six-ounce serving of asparagus will cook al dente in boiling water in about 2-3 minutes; add enough salt after the water begins to boil until it tastes like mild seawater. Once cooked, transfer the stalks to a bowl of cold water with ice to stop them from cooking further, dry them off and serve them whole drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. When I serve them chilled, I let them sit in the fridge in the dressing for a few minutes before serving. For something even richer, try a dressing with two parts hazelnut oil, a handful of chopped, toasted hazelnuts and one part lemon juice. Drain the asparagus, dry stalks of excess water and toss them, warm, into the bowl with the dressing. When I serve them warm, I have the dressing ready; I toss and eat right away.
Creamy risotto is mixed with Bibb lettuce, Parmesan cheese and fresh lemon juice and can be served as a light main or hearty side — perfect for Mother’s Day. Tangy Italian cheese and asparagus top this Italian classic for an extra burst of flavor.
Get the recipe: Risotto With Asparagus
Browse more of Food Network’s Mother’s Day recipes.