Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Asparagus and crab salad


This makes a light and gorgeous start to a casual dinner party or even an “al fresco” dinner.

20 asparagus spears, trimmed
2 oz baby arugula leaves
4 oz white crab meat

For the dressing
3 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
juice ½ lime
brown crab meat, if you have it, but it’s not crucial to the recipe, rather more luxurious!
olive oil, for drizzling

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 2 mins until just cooked.
Drain, tip into iced water to refresh and drain again. Cut each spear on the angle into 2-3 pieces.

For the dressing
Mix all the ingredients together with some brown crab meat, if you have it.
Toss the asparagus through the dressing, then build a nest of asparagus spears on plates.
Place some white crab meat in the center of each nest, top with a small bundle of rocket.
Drizzle everything with a little olive oil before serving.

Asparagus, orange and goat cheese salad

Light and so gorgeous! It’s also lovely with some sliced cooked beets added.

Serves 4

11 oz thin asparagus spears
1 1/2 cups watercress or baby arugula
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 orange, cut into 12 segments, pith, pips and skin removed
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 1/2 oz soft goat’s cheese

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes or until just tender. Rinse under cold water to cool, then combine with the watercress or arugula, red onion and orange segments on a serving dish
Combine the orange juice, sugar, red wine vinegar and 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds in a pitcher.
Whisk in the oil with a fork until combined and drizzle over the salad.
Crumble the goat’s cheese over the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp poppy seeds over the salad before serving

Broiled asparagus, orange slices with olive oil and shallots

Another lovely, fragrant accompaniment with chicken, fish or just rice.

Serves 4 as a side dish

1lb asparagus, woody stem ends snapped off and discarded
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 very thin orange slices, cut into quarters (unpeeled)
1/2 tsp grated orange zest

Adjust an oven rack to as close to the broiler as possible. Heat the broiler on high.
In a bowl, toss the asparagus with the oil to coat and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the shallot slices in a thin layer on one side of a rimmed baking sheet.
Put the asparagus in a single layer on top of them.
Toss the orange slices with the leftover oil in the bowl you used for the asparagus.
Arrange them in a single layer alongside the asparagus.
Broil until the asparagus and the oranges start to char, 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the asparagus with the orange zest.
Arrange the asparagus, shallots and oranges on a serving dish.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature

Grilled asparagus,mozzarella, prosciutto and melon salad

Thank you to Giada De Laurentiis for this recipe. I like to serve this with a fillet of broiled wild salmon on the side.

4 -6 servings

3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1 lb asparagus
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 small melon (about 12 oz) peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2″ cubes
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. bake for 12- 14 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Chop the prosciutto into 1/4″ pieces
Place a grill pan over medium high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. In a medium bowl toss together the asparagus and 2 tsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2- 3 minutes each side until crisp tender.
In a medium bowl combine the lemon juice and 2 tbsp olive oil. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the melon and mozzarella cheese and toss until all ingredients are combined.
Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the melon and mozzarella cheese on top of the asparagus.
Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle the prosciutto and pine nuts on top and serve.

To toast the pine nuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 8 to 12 minutes until lightly browned

Asparagus Bread Pudding

This is also from a fellow blogger and again, combines my favorite “bread pudding” with lots of asparagus and cheese!
Serves 4

1/2 loaf of rustic, preferably day old Ciabatta or other dense Italian loaf of bread, crusts removed cut into 1/2 inch cubes, about 3 – 4 cups
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 lb asparagus, tough stems removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup Gruyere, Fontina or Emmenthaler cheese, grated
1/2 to 3/4 Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs,  thyme, oregano, chives and flat leaf parsley

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the milk over.
Set aside for about 35 minutes in order for the milk to thoroughly soak into the bread
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a square baking dish and set aside.
Combine the cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. and whisk together. Set the custard aside.
Drop the asparagus into a small saucepan of boiling water and cook until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
Rinse under cold running water and drain. Toss together with the garlic, shallots and herbs.
In a small bowl combine the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses.
To the bowl with the soaked bread cubes, add the asparagus/herb mixture.
Mix lightly to combine.
Place half of the bread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
Sprinkle with half of the cheese mixture.
Top with the remaining bread mixture and top with the remaining cheese.
Pour the custard over the top.
Bake until golden, about 1 hour.
Check for doneness with a skewer or pairing knife.
The custard should be set and the tester should come out clean.

Sauted asparagus with melted gorgonzola and toasted pine nuts

Makes 4 servings.

1lb  fresh asparagus, thin spears are preferred but if you use thicker ones, peel the stalk ends.
1 tbsp olive oil, or more if you want
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 to 1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
2 – 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (toast them in a high temperature skillet or oven)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You may not need too much salt due to the gorgonzola cheese being salty.

Snap off a piece of asparagus to see where to cut off the tough ends, then trim all the asparagus to that length and cut into 2inches long
. Cutting on a diagonal looks prettier!

Put the olive oil into a large frying pan, turn the heat to medium, add garlic and saute about 1 minute or until you start to smell garlic and the cloves are barely starting to get some color.
Don’t let the garlic brown or it will make your oil taste bitter rather than delightfully garlicky.
Take the pan off the heat and remove the garlic and discard.

Put the pan back on the heat, add the asparagus and saute for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the asparagus is barely starting to soften and brown slightly.
Timing will depend completely on how hot your stove burner is, but I cooked mine exactly 5 mins and it was perfect.

While the asparagus cooks, toast the pine nuts. When the asparagus is done, turn off the heat and sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola over the asparagus in the pan.
Let it sit for a minute until about half the cheese is starting to melt and the rest is still in firm pieces.
Plate the asparagus and sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Season with salt and pepper. (I didn’t need any salt) and serve immediately!

Asparagus spears with Cambozola sauce

This is simple and really tasty. Thanks to Michael Chiarello

1 1/2 lbs asparagus, ends trimmed and peeled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 lb Cambozola cheese, broken into pieces
1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves

Fill a deep frying pan halfway full with water and bring to the boil. Add asparagus to the boiling water and add salt and olive oil. Boil for 6 mins. Shock the asparagus in iced water to stop the cooking process then lay on a sheet pan or plate to cool and place in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes. Chop into 2 – 3″ pieces ready for dipping.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the cream and simmer until it’s reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cheese bit by bit, whisking as you go.
As one piece melts add another until no cheese remains. Now add the thyme and stir to combine.
Serve with the asparagus pieces.
It’s wonderful! I serve it in a dish that keeps warm so it doesn’t solidify, so I use ramekin dishes that sit over a tea light flame.