Serve your family cream of asparagus soup
Asparagus has been used from very early times as a culinary vegetable, due to its delicate flavour and diuretic properties. It is one of the first vegetables, ready to be harvested in Spring. Asparagus is native to the Mediterranean. The United States is a major consumer and imports both green asparagus and white asparagus from Peru.
In its simplest form, the shoots are boiled or steamed until tender and served with a light sauce such as hollandaise, or melted butter, or a drizzle of olive oil with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. A refinement is to tie the shoots into sheaves and stand them so that the lower parts of the stalks are boiled, while the more tender heads are steamed. Chefs, before cooking, scrape asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler, stroking away from the head, and refresh them in ice-cold water before steaming them; the peel is often added again to the cooking water and removed only after the asparagus is done; this is supposed to prevent diluting of the flavour. Small or full-sized stalks can be made into asparagus soup.
Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It is the best vegetable provider of folic acid, which is necessary for blood cell formation and growth, as well as in preventing liver disease. Folic acid is also important for pregnant women, as it helps in the prevention of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the developing foetus.
Asparagus is very low in calories; each stalk contains fewer than 4 calories. It contains no fat or cholesterol, and is very low in sodium. It is a great source of potassium and fibre and vitamins B6, A and C, and thiamine.
Here is a simple recipe.
Cream of Asparagus
Fresh asparagus spears, chopped: 2 cups
Onion, minced: 1
Water: two-and-a-half cups
Butter: 1 tablespoon
Evaporated milk: 1 cup
Salt: 1 teaspoon
Cornstarch, dissolved thick: 4 tablespoons
Cheese, grated: half cup
In a saucepan, boil the asparagus spears and the onion in two-and-a-half cups of water until tender. Macerate the softened vegetables and pass through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Add the strained vegetable puree into the stock. Add the butter, milk, salt and cornstarch. Cook on a moderate flame until smooth and thick, stirring continuously with a wire whisk. Add the grated cheese and simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot.
Vivanta by Taj – Connemara