Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Asparagus Season Kick-Off Recipe

It’s that time of the year again: growing season is kicking into gear after a long winter hibernation and local produce is back in our markets and kitchens. Have you noticed that the color of spring is green? Not just the leaves on the tree but also the produce at the markets: leafy greens, green peas, green beans, baby artichokes, and the crown jewel of spring vegetables - asparagus.
Asparagus spears are tender young shoots of a big, claw-shaped perennial that grows into a four-foot-tall fernlike plant. The spears start pushing up out of the ground in spring and are harvested when they are about 12 inches above the ground. You can find imported asparagus year-round but fresh spring asparagus-juicy, snappy and herbaceous-is a special treat of spring.  
When buying make sure that the “crown” is tight and closed and the color bright green. Take a look at the bottom of the spear - it should look freshly-cut and still moist. And after you got local asparagus, kick-off the season with an old favorite.

Fettuccine with Asparagus Sauce

Serves four

1 pound fresh fettuccine
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic
½ cup cream
1 tbsp. butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese plus enough shaved with a vegetable peeler to
Salt and white pepper to taste

Cut off the tips and the tough ends of the asparagus and reserve the tips. Chop the middle portion of the asparagus. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom sauce pot, add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add the chopped asparagus. Cook over medium heat with ½ of the salt until tender. Add 1½ cups water and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture reduce by half and add the cream. Reduce by another half. Let the asparagus mixture cool and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender. For optimum results strain this puree to remove any tough parts of the asparagus. Add the puree back into a sauce pan and add the asparagus tips and parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce can be cooled and reserved up to 3 days at this point or kept hot and used immediately.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente,about 3 minutes. Strain the pasta and drain completely. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Portion or plate onto bowls or a platter and garnish with the shaved Parmigiano.

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