Asparagus–My Favorite Ways to Enjoy This Seasonal Gem

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When asparagus is in season, I just can’t get enough of it. Have you ever tried really fresh asparagus? Not the stuff from the grocery store, but the stuff from the farmers market that they picked the day before or that morning? Or even better, know a (really good) friend who grows asparagus and is willing to give you some straight from the garden hours after they’ve picked it? Asparagus takes years to cultivate, so anyone who grows it is awfully nice for giving it away!

Anyway, really fresh asparagus is nothing like what you get in the stores. The stuff in the stores, if fresh, is at least a week old and probably more. It’s kind of pungent and a little funky in a good way. But days and hours old asparagus is a whole different experience. Not to get too corny, but it’s like eating a spring day. Light and airy, with a hint of welcome fresh and grassiness. There’s really nothing better.

Pairing: you often hear that asparagus is hard to pair with wine since it has such an assertive flavor. When in doubt, a classic pairing with asparagus is a Gruner Vetliner from Austria. If you’re not familiar with this wine, it’s almost like a rich version of Sauvignon Blanc, so it pairs with the grassiness of the asparagus but stands up to the assertiveness of the flavor. Of course it all depends on what you’re making with the asparagus, but if it’s the star of the show give this wine a try.

Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare this seasonal gem.

Eat it Raw

Really, really, really fresh asparagus is clean and refreshing and so tasty raw or with your favorite dip. Give it a try this season on its own!

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Pair with Eggs

Since the asparagus has such a distinct, grassy flavor to it, pairing it with a rich ingredient like eggs balance the flavors beautifully.

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Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara {Gourmet Mommy}

Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Chive Quiche {Savory Simple}

Asparagus Stuffed Eggs {Smitten Kitchen}

Make a salad

You can’t go wrong with a olive oil-y dressing and some greens as a perfect foil to the asparagus.

Spring Asparagus Salad {Feasting at Home}

Roast it on the side

When you roast asparagus, you really bring out the pungent and funkiness to it, in the best way. Especially if you get a little char on it. Honestly, I’d rarely roast with really great fresh asparagus, but with a decent store-bought bunch this is a perfect pair with chicken, fish, and grilled steak.

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Roasted Asparagus {Gourmet Mommy}

Pistachio Crusted Asparagus with Feta {Joy the Baker}

Roasted Asparagus with Buttery Lemon Breadcrumbs {Simple Bites}

Serve it in Pasta

Similar to the eggs, the weight and richness of the pasta is the perfect counterweight to the flavor of the asparagus.

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Herby Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {Gourmet Mommy}

Asparagus Pasta {Eat, Live, Run}

What’s your favorite way to make asparagus?

 0414 asparagus collage pinterest

Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots {happiness}

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There is something about spring that just makes me happy. Going outside, seeing friends you haven’t seen in awhile, watching the daffodils and tulips come up. It makes me think about the things that make me happy:

Spending time with family and friends, old and new.
Watching my kids grow up, become little people, and see them make good choices.
Finding beauty in the mundane or in unexpected places.

And these carrots. No, actually, these carrots, and easy wholesome recipes like them, that can help make those moments of happiness easy.

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These carrots are easy to make, everyone loves them, are great served at room temp, and are easy to make a ton to feed a crowd. It’s a wonderful dish to serve at a potluck, for Easter or Thanksgiving, or an elegant dinner party. Recipes like this make it that much easier for me to enjoy the moment I’m in, rather than worrying about whether I’m forgetting something or burning something (and I usually am).

Watching my kids choose eating carrots over eating meat, asking for more and more, it makes me realize that by serving them good wholesome options they are learning how to make good choices for themselves. And with a big world out there trying to influence them, it’s a little reminder about the impact we as parents can have on their lives and their choices.

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And, I mean really, you dig something up from the ground and with little effort it turns out like this?!?! There are so many things that are hard, and ugly, and bad but to know that you have the power to turn something so simple into something so beautiful is an empowering thought.

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Ok, so I went a little deep with the carrots there. Sorry, having a moment. But try the recipe. Maybe it will change your life. Or maybe it will just taste good. Either way: happiness.

Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole carrots (baby if you can find them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash and trim the carrots if they still have their leafy tops. If you have baby carrots, scrub them well but leave the skins on. If you have big carrots, go ahead and peel them but leave them whole.
  3. Toss the carrots with spices, garlic, olive oil and salt, and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes for baby carrots, 30-35 minutes for whole carrots. Just until a fork can pierce easily but with a little resistance.
  5. Serve.
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Kale and Radish Tabbouleh

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Um, yeah, so it’s snowing again. It’s late March and it’s snowing. But I can’t stop believing that someday, one day, soon, we will have an actual spring. With picnics, and potlucks, and get togethers.  And outside. Playgrounds. Running, jumping outside of my house….that’s not a dream is it? We will be able to leave the house, won’t we?

Of course, I always think of spring food as asparagus and peas and strawberries, but we’re still a few months away from that. Early spring means rich dark greens, radishes, and spring onions. 

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So I’m making the most of it before we get into the asparagus and peas and strawberries. Tabbouleh is traditionally a mid-summer dish with fresh, ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, and I love to bring it to picnics and potlucks then. But I thought I’d spring it up a bit and replace the tomatoes with radishes and some of the herbs with kale.

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It’s a fairly easy dish that you can make ahead and bring to your next spring outing.

I use a mixture of traditional ingredients like parsley and mint that are pretty easy to find this year. But I add in kale, chopped as finely as the parsley and then wilted in the microwave to lose some of the bitterness. And radishes chopped small so they add flavor and texture without overwhelming.

Kale and Radish Tabbouleh

Prep Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 12-16 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale
  • 1-2 cup chopped parsley (1 bunch is about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 bunch radishes, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good kind)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the bulgur. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, steam the kale. I do this in the microwave: dampen 2 paper towels and lay them on a microwave safe plate. Top with chopped kale. Lay another 2 dampened paper towels on top of the kale. Microwave for 2 minutes. Check the kale. If it's not completely wilted, microwave for another minute. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a very large bowl. Toss in the bulgur and kale. Mix until combined.
  4. Allow to stand for an hour or so to let the flavors combine. This keeps great in the fridge for 3-4 days.
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Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges {kids cooking}

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Sweet potatoes and I, we didn’t understand each other for a long time. They didn’t make sense to me. I dunno, I guess I feel like if you want potatoes have potatoes and if you want something sweet have fruit. Or chocolate.

When we collectively discovered that sweet potatoes are better for you than regular potatoes they started showing up everywhere. Sweet potato fries, sweet potato tots. Meh. Once you stick something in a deep fryer, do the 2 extra vitamins you get with sweet potatoes really make that much of a difference?

Then I started roasting them in the oven in thick wedges. That’s when I realized: if you treat a sweet potato like a sweet potato (instead of a substitute for something else), there is magic to be had!

The sugar in the potato caramelizes beautifully, giving the wedges a burnt sugar crusty thing. And the inside is totally light and fluffy. The only thing that makes them better is slathering on some mustard to give it some tang  and balance out the sweetness a bit. I used Dijon but whole grain would be cool too.

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The kids absolutely love them and it goes great with meat loaf, fish sticks, or even as a light main dish. Plus, the they can make them for you. After you cut the potatoes into wedges, have the kids measure out the other ingredients and toss them around. They’ll love it and be more apt to eat anything they’ve help to prepare anyway.

Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into large wedges. Small/medium potatoes into fourths, large maybe eighths. These aren't fries, they're thick, meaty wedges so you can get a nice, thick caramelized crust on the outside and a light, creamy inside.
  3. Toss potatoes with all other ingredients and spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  4. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until they are soft in the middle.
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Roasted Asparagus

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I’ve taken to eating asparagus in protest.

The current temperature is 25 degrees. It’s supposed to snow on Monday. It’s mid-March. What the…

This summer had better be worth it, is all I have to say.

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But it must be spring somewhere, because asparagus is showing up on sale at the grocery store pretty regularly now.

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So I will take it, I will roast it, and I will close my eyes and think of short sleeves and grass and bunnies.

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Roasted asparagus is the easiest thing, and such a delicious side dish or something to do ahead and throw into a salad.

It’s great to get the kids helping too. They can snap the ends, pour on the olive oil salt and pepper, toss it all around, and lay it out on the baking sheet. So the only thing you do is put it in the oven!

Also, I upgraded my camera equipment. What do you think?

Roasted Asparagus

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2-4 servings

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about a pound)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Kids Cooking Steps
  3. Snap the woody stems off of the asparagus.
  4. Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a sheet pan.
  5. End Kids Cooking Steps
  6. Roast for 10-20 minutes, or until desired doneness. The fresher the asparagus, the shorter the roast time for me.
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Winter Vegetable Roundup

Officially, spring is just a little over 2 weeks away! I find it hard to believe since it’s still snowing here in the mid-Atlantic. But even with spring right around the corner, I know it will be awhile before we start to see all of those great spring vegetables that I’m pining for.

For now though, I just need a break from all of the heavy, stewed, creamy foods that constitute winter cooking. So I’m making a list of many of my favorite recipes using the best winter has to offer that aren’t quite so heavy, are totally nourishing, and make me appreciate winter cooking. Since this winter will never end.

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Soups

Root Vegetable Soup (vegan, gluten free) by me

Root Veg Soup

Creamy Potato, Leek and Gorgonzola Soup (gluten free) from the Pig and Quill

Carrot, Ginger, and Sweet Potato Soup from A Touch of Zest

Salads

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad from Taste, Love, and Nourish

Winter Panzanella Salad with Warm Anchovy Orange Dressing by me

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Mains

Winter Salad Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Savory Simple

Lebanese Beef and Green Beans from Barefeet in the Kitchen

Braised Kale over Parmesan Polenta by me

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Sides

Garlic Smashed Potatoes from Damn Delicious

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts by me

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts // www.gourmetmommy.com

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Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I hate Brussels sprouts.

I said that a lot as a kid. And plenty of times as an adult too. Mushy and stinky, I remember thinking. But they are so darn cute, those little baby cabbages, I kept buying them, steaming them, and hating them.

Then I learned to roast them. And I started to love them. Plain, with just a little salt and pepper and olive oil. They get all crispy and kind of sweet but still a little stinky. Now it’s in a good way though, like a stinky cheese.

One day I threw on a little balsamic. World. Officially. Rocked. The Balsamic has the whole earthy, sweet, tart thing going on; such a perfect compliment to the pungent sprouts.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts // www.gourmetmommy.com

My kids love everything, except Brussels sprouts. I understand, I spent years hating them. I also spent years trying them. And so will they. Maybe one day they’ll like them too.

I’m kind of embarrassed to share this because it’s not really a recipe, but every time I serve it people kind of freak out about how good it is. Including me. So I thought I’d share. It’s really easy. You could make them fancier if you wanted. Maybe some herbs. Or some bacon. Or a little mustard. It’s all good.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts // www.gourmetmommy.com

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise. If some of the leaves fall off, toss them in with the sprouts. Then they roast they get all crispy like chips. It's my favorite part.
  3. Toss with olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper and place on a sheet pan. You definitely don't want to use a roasting pan or a cake pan because the sprouts will steam and get all mushy. A jelly roll or full sheet pan is perfect.
  4. Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes, turning tossing halfway through. Don't mess with them too much though; otherwise they'll fall apart.
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Root Vegetable Soup

1113 Root Vegetable Soup-2 pinterest.jpgHappy Meatless Monday!

With the lull between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I’m looking for healthy, satisfying, nourishing meals that help me detox from all the candy and meat and carbs that we’re inclined to scarf up this time of year.

Enter the humble root vegetable soup.

I like using a mix of root veg since each one contributes a little something different in terms of flavor and nutrients. Oh, who am I kidding? I opened the fridge and thought, what the heck am I going to do with a couple parsnips, a couple of potatoes, and a few sad leftover carrots? Anway, it’s a beautiful thing when the leftovers make something so wholesome and delish! The sweet potatoes bring sweet starchiness and a ton of calcium, potassium, and Vitamins A&C. Parsnips bring fiber, folate, and manganese. Carrots bring carotenes and Vitamin A.

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It is embarressingly–to misquote the Lion King–simple, yet satisfying. A couple of pounds of mixed roots in some water or stock, a handful of seasonings, and a whiz in the blender and voila! a tasty meal that the whole family loves. And no one needs to know that it’s vegan AND gluten free!

Pair with a lovely buttery Chardonnay from California.

Root Vegetable Soup

Yield: 4 servings

I use a mixture of root vegetables here, about a pound each, but you can use whatever you’ve got. All one veg, or mix it up and try something new.

If you want to add some protein, garnish with some toasted nuts or even add some white beans into the soup before you puree it.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 1 pound parsnips, roughly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the onions, celery and a pinch of salt and saute just until tender. Add the garlic and stir briefly. Then add the apple and root vegetables, stirring to coat, and pour in the liquid. Simmer gently until all of the vegetables are tender, approx 30-45 minutes.
  2. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth. At this point you’ll want to check the consistency. If it’s too thin for your liking, turn the heat up and let it cook down a bit. Too thick? Just add some water.
  3. When you’ve got the consistency you like, then add the spices and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
  4. Serve, topped with cilantro and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
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And the reviews are in: “Mom, this is the best soup I’ve ever had in my entire life.” Thanks son, and yes you may have another piece of Halloween candy.

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