Sunday, March 29, 2009
It took me years to realize how rare and precious a flourishing asparagus bed can be. I was fortunate enough to buy a farmhouse that had a well established asparagus bed on it. It had been so well cared for over the years--free of weeds and with three different varieties of asparagus growing to choose from. Just the sight of those beautiful spears breaking through the soil in the Spring is one of nature's wonders. Maybe secretly I was drawn to this farm just because it had these beds :)
Growing asparagus requires patience and restraint--three to four years of growing is needed but will reward you with beautifully formed spears that will allow you at least six weeks of harvest each year thereafter, and even better-- a well established asparagus bed will produce for decades to come! At just about the same time of the year the spring nettles and fiddleheads are are also at their best, so I like to prepare dishes using these ingredients as often as I can during their short season here in New England.
Asparagus is extremely high in vitamins A, C and E. It's not only delicious but really good for you too. You can find fresh asparagus all year but it is the most affordable in the springtime, that's why it's so popular at Easter.
Fresh asparagus is delicious on it's own but by adding a few simple ingredients you can turn a simple side dish that your entire family will adore. This recipe is light, very tasty, a breeze to prepare and oh so good! The mildness of Muenster and goat cheese will accent, but not overpower the delicate asparagus flavor.
1 lb asparagus
3 TBL unsalted butter
2 TBLS olive oil
2 TBL shallots, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup dried nettles (found at any health store if you don't grow & dry your own)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup cream
1 cup Muenster cheese, grated
1/4 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled *opt
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
Rinse,roll and cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces. You should end up with 2 cups. Melt 1 TBLS butter and olive in a saute' pan and saute onion, shallots until soft and golden. Add asparagus--sprinkle with sugar, cover and steam cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and cook until liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool slightly.
Beat together, eggs, cream, dried nettles, thyme, sea salt & ground pepper to taste. Melt and put remaining butter in a two inch high baking dish. Pour in egg mixture and bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven until it just begins to set(about 3 minutes). Remove from oven and arrange asparagus and onions on top of the eggs. Back into the oven, bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven once more and cover asparagus layer with grated cheese and goat milk crumbles. then bake an additional 10 minutes . When the eggs have puffed and the cheese is lightly browned, this dish is finished. Let it set a few moments before cutting and serving. Enjoy!