Though I’m staring out my window at a cold winter landscape here in Denver, Colorado, my thoughts are moving toward spring. Just before this lastest winter blast, I was walking past my garden and noticed my hyacinths are already beginning to poke their green tips out of the ground. And when you see that, you know spring is just around the corner. And spring means Spargelzeit! Time for fresh asparagus recipes. In Germany, asparagus – particularly white asparagus – is known as “Spargel” and they are utterly mad for it. They prefer the white version, grown in covered mounds to protect it from sunlight. Across the Rhine in France, they are equally mad for the green variety. It’s a funny competition back and forth, with each side making jokes about the others’ obsession. But everyone wins, because fresh asparagus is delicious!
Preparing asparagus is simple, but there are a few tricks to it that will make it easier. Here are some recipes to get you started as the days start to warm up. I’ll start with the baked asparagus recipes, and move on to fresh asparagus soup.
I use my stick blender to puree the asparagus soup. It’s handy for using with hot things that you don’t want to try to pour into a blender. Here are some models that will serve you well:
With these recipes you’ll be ready to tackle Spargelzeit like a real pro. Enjoy!
Oven Roasted Asparagus
- 1 bunch Asparagus Spears, thin bottoms trimmed
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese grated
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- Preheat oven to 425F (218C)
- Mince the garlic and grate the parmesan. Rinse and trim the ends of the asparagus spears, or just snap them at their natural breaking point lower on the stalk.
- Place the spears in a shallow baking dish, large enough to arrange them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle garlic, cheese, salt and pepper over the top and toss again.
- Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until a fork pierces easily.
- Remove and drizzle with lemon juice before serving.
The favorite recipe for white asparagus is to serve it with hollandaise sauce and a slice or two of ham. Here’s a good recipe to put it together:
White Asparagus with Hollandaise
- 4 lb White Asparagus
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
For the Hollandaise:
- 4 lg Egg Yolks
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup Butter
- 2 tbsp Cold Water
- Trim (don’t snap) the woody 1/2″ off the asparagus ends and peel the spears from just beneath the flower head. See here how to properly peel asparagus. Put these pieces into a shallow pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the trimmed pieces from the water and add the butter, salt and sugar to the stock. Cook the asparagus gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until you can slide a fork easily through the thick end of the spears. Drain well.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Heat the butter in a non-stick pan until it has just melted. Don’t let it get too hot! Add the water and drizzle the mixture SLOWLY into the egg, whisking constantly. Pour back into the pan and cook on a very low heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
- Spoon the hollandaise over the asparagus and serve. You most commonly see it served with boiled potatoes and very thinly sliced ham.
The other asparagus dish you’ll see everywhere in Germany during Spargelzeit is Asparagus Soup. This is my favorite of all. Creamy, hot and delicious!
White Asparagus Soup (Spargelsuppe)
- 1 1/2 lbs White Asparagus
- 1½ tsp Salt
- 1½ tsp Sugar
- 4½ tbsp Butter
- 3 tbsp Flour
- 1/2 cup White Wine
- 1 cup Half and Half Cream (or single cream) It should be about 18% fat
- Salt and Pepper
- Fresh chives finely chopped
- Wash the asparagus spears, trim off the woody 1/2″, and peel from beneath the flower head down. (See here on how to peel asparagus – it’s critical that you do this, otherwise the soup will have stringy “hair” throughout!)
- Put all the ends and bits of peel into a pan with 6 cups of water and the salt and sugar, and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes before draining through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Discard the bits and leave the liquid to cool.
- Slice off the tips of the asparagus spears just below the head and then slice them in half lengthwise. Cut the remaining spears into 1 inch pieces. Melt 3 tbsp of the butter in a medium sauce pan large enough to take all the stock. Add add the chopped asparagus stalks (not the tips). Saute over a medium heat for two minutes, then add the flour. Stir and allow to sweat for one minute before adding the wine to deglaze the pan; then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Once the asparagus pieces are soft (check by poking one with a sharp knife), remove from the heat and use a stick blender to thoroughly blend them with the stock. Once smooth, pour the puree through a sieve, using a rubber spatula to push it through and scrape any liquid clinging on to its underside. Return soup to the pan. Stir in the cream, season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and reheat gently.
- Melt the remaining butter in a small saute pan and slowly cook the asparagus tips for about five minutes, until they’re golden brown around the edges. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips and chopped chives.