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Asparagus steamed, or grilled & wrapped?

 
Series: Recipe Column | Story 64


Asparagus season has begun. Though we can buy asparagus in the supermarket most of the year, fresh locally grown is a cut above in flavor and texture. Keeping the fresh flavor and texture is all in the preparation and cooking process; and desired texture is a matter of personal taste.

Most folks prefer a tender crisp texture, but achieving those results requires attention to detail. I was recently asked about a method of cooking asparagus upright in a canning jar. The history of culinary preparation of asparagus for eating goes back over 2000 years, and most references call for cooking/steaming the stalks in an upright position so the stem end receives the most cooking while the tips keep a firm texture.

You can purchase an asparagus steamer, but they are expensive and have limited applications. Here is another use for your soup kettle or stock pot, and a quart wide-mouth canning jar.

Steamed Asparagus

Canning Jar Style

Utensils:

Tall 6 to 8 quart kettle

Wide mouth quart canning jar

Ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus

Optional:

Salt to taste

Butter, 1-2 Tbsp

Garlic clove, crushed

Add about 2 inches of water to kettle and bring to a boil, reduce to a vigorous simmer.

Meanwhile wash and trim asparagus, removing about 1-1 1/2 inches from the stem end. If asparagus is fresh picked, you can snap the tough end off.

Place asparagus, stem end down in canning jar along with 1 tablespoon water and any of the optional ingredients you like. Place filled jar in simmering water, adjusting temperature to keep water at a simmer. Cover pot and simmer 25 minutes. I know this seems like a long cooking time, but you are steaming inside a second container, kind of like a double boiler. More heat is going to the base of the stalks to tenderize while the tips retain crispness.

For those who like to grill vegetables, try this recipe for Grilled Bacon Wrapped Asparagus. Grill ed on the barbeque or under the broiler in your oven, this dish is an eye appealing and flavorful side dish for any meal.

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped

Asparagus

1 1/2 pound fresh asparagus

1 pound regular slice bacon

Ground black pepper

Wash, trim and thoroughly dry asparagus.

Cover a work surface with waxed paper. Lay out one bacon slice for each two asparagus spears. Lightly sprinkle bacon with ground pepper.

Now cut each bacon strip in half the long way, so you end up with long skinny strips of bacon. Wrap the bacon, peppered side toward the asparagus around each spear, leaving about 1/2 inch of spear exposed with each wrap. Tuck bacon end under the strip to secure during cooking.

Heat grill or broiler to medium. Place spears with room to turn between each on grill. Turn frequently for even browning of the bacon for 5 to 8 minutes depending on desired doneness. If grilling with other foods, place over a cooler part of the grill. Watch out for flare-ups from the bacon grease.

Crock-pot lasagna was mentioned recently on Facebook post. No recipe was given, but following is my favorite recipe for lasagna done in a slow-cooker. If I remember correctly, the recipe was on a spaghetti sauce jar, but I adjusted it to suit family taste.

Slow-cooker Lasagna

8-10 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound German or Italian sausage, sliced very thin.

1 cup chopped onion

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce)

1/3 cup water

15 ounces ricotta cheese

2-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet brown ground beef and onion. Add sliced sausage and cook 2-3 minutes more. Drain fat from skillet. Stir in seasonings, spaghetti sauce and water.

Place half the mixture in a large, greased slow-cooker crock. Break noodles into 2 inch pieces and place half over sauce. Top with half the ricotta cheese and half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Cover and cook on low 5 hours. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Note: if you want to substitute cottage cheese in this recipe, omit the water added to the sauce.

Several weeks ago, a number of local folks were sharing a recipe on Facebook for Lazy Mans Pie-Peach Cobbler. Easy to make from pantry staples, you may use fresh or frozen fruit, or lightly drained canned fruit. It is best served warm with cream or ice cream.

Lazy Man's Pie-Peach Cobbler

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

Dash salt

4 cups sliced peaches, pitted cherries or blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a 9 inch square baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Spread batter in pan over melted butter. Cover surface with the fruit. (Batter will rise to the top during baking)

Bake cobbler 1 hour. Serve warm. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Share you favorite asparagus and other spring vegetable recipes, any new recipes you have tried from other sources you found pleasing and any kitchen tips to help new cooks. Not all are exposed to cooking skills through Home-economics classes or 4-H these days. Being able to prepare meals with a minimum of processed ingredients is a valuable skill when trying to stretch food dollars, use fresh ingredients or eliminate chemical additives from your diet.

Send recipes and cooking questions to: Welcome to My Kitchen, c/o The Odessa Record, P.O. Box 458, Odessa WA 99159, email therecord@odessaoffice.com or drop them in the Welcome to My Kitchen mail tin in The Odessa record office. Growing asparagus at the back of a sunny flower bed is a way to get dual use of the space. Cut spears for eating in the spring and the feathery fronds make a lovely back drop for taller flowers like iris and daisies throughout the summer.

 

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