Easter! A day of joy! A day of celebration! That’s why we have been planning a festive Easter Sunday brunch this year. And that’s why we have been experimenting with a number of fresh new ideas to make this an uplifting meal of praise and thanksgiving that will set the tone for the week ahead.
One of the new dishes we put together is a colorful asparagus fritatta. This starts with a tasty potato and onion crust that is filled with a mixture of eggs, cheese, and bacon bits, and then topped with fresh asparagus spears, strips of zucchini, and colorful peppers. To dress it up we garnished it with a couple of crisp bacon curls. We were very pleased with its appearance and we loved its combination of flavors. It is definitely now on our menu, and I am almost certain once it has made its debut in the convent on Easter Sunday it will return for many repeat performances in the days ahead — not only as a brunch or breakfast dish, but as a lovely spring lunch or light supper.
Festive Asparagus Frittata
- Drizzle oil over the base of a 9 inch quiche dish, then spread with onions and top with potato slices.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until potato is tender.
- Steam asparagus until tender.
- Arrange asparagus spears and red pepper and zucchini strips like the spokes of a wheel onto top of potato, then pour over eggs and season with black pepper to taste.
- Scatter with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until frittata is firm.
Springtime is asparagus time! When I was just a young novice one of my most favorite morning responsibilities was to check the asparagus patch. What a way to start the day! The sight of new spears shooting up through the soil was an absolute delight. Then to calculate how many would reach their full height by the end of the day was a “lifegiving” exercise.
Because their growth is so rapid and so obvious from hour to hour, it is unlike most other growing edibles except perhaps mushrooms. In any case, the sight, as well as the taste, of asparagus still pleases me to no end.
Whether it be out in the garden straight from the soil, whether it be simmered and slightly salted right out of the pot at the stove or topped with hollandaise at the dinner table, I always welcome them.
Now that they are so popular roasted I have come up with this simple version that many people seem to like ……bacon wrapped and roasted with a touch of brown sugar and crispy crumb topping.
- Heat oven to 400º Fahrenheit. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add parsley, lemon peel; toss well.
- Microwave bacon till fat is melted and the slices are easy to roll around the asparagus.
- Divide asparagus into 4 equal bundles. Loosely wrap each bundle with one slice of bacon. Press brown sugar onto bacon. Press crumbs onto sugared bacon. Place prepared asparagus into shallow baking dish. Brush asparagus tips with oil. Bake uncovered until bacon is crisp – 15”-20”.
Risotto is now considered a specialty dish often featured on menus in upscale eating places. It has, however, been a common everyday food in Italian homes for many years. Cooked in different ways to satisfy various tastes, it is almost as popular as pasta in the Mediterranean diet.
It can be prepared as a simple, meatless, light lunch or as an accompaniment to meat or fish for a fuller multi-course meal.
This time of year, spring asparagus especially lends itself to this creamy, cheesy dish to make it an exceptionally flavorful culinary experience.
- Blanch the asparagus
- In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon butter on medium heat.
- Add the shallots and cook until translucent.
- Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until nicely coated.
- While shallots are cooking, bring the stock to a simmer in another saucepan.
- Add the wine. Slowly stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine.
- Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice. Stir until the liquid is almost sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Continue adding 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice at a time, and cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed each time.
- You will stop adding stock when the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 20-25 minutes.
- With the last ladle of stock, add the asparagus. Turn off the heat. Keep the risotto loose. It thickens a lot while it sits.
- Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. Add onion salt and pepper to taste.
I grew up in an agrarian area with a mother who appreciated the seasons and food that came with them. We lived next to a highly farmed area. I remember fields stretching as far as the eye could see. Hadley produced mostly tobacco, but also lots of asparagus, and of course butternut squash and apples in their season. Every spring, about this time, my mother would go looking for wild asparagus, since she had noted where the fronds were the previous summer. I think I am a little spoiled, because I have tasted asparagus when it was harvested the same day, and there is nothing like it. We can get asparagus any time of the year now. I love it just blanched, with some butter and salt and pepper. Below is my favorite recipe for soup, which celebrates the intense flavor of the asparagus itself.
- Trim the tips from the asparagus.
- Cut the woody stems ends from each spear and reserve.
- Cut the remaining stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil.
- Add the woody stems and lower heat to simmer, cook 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.
- Add the tips to stock and blanch until tender about 1 minute.
- Remove with a strainer, and plunge directly into an ice water bath.
- Drain on paper towels and reserve for garnish.
- Reserve the stock.
- In a medium stock pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.
- When foamy, add the shallots and leeks, and cook until just tender.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the chopped asparagus stalks and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.
- Add the reserve broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat. With an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor, puree until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Return to medium heat and add the half and half and reserved asparagus tips.
- Cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 3 minutes.