Ontario asparagus a Mother’s Day treat

Here are some Mother’s Day suggestions to put a smile on everyone’s face – cooks and guests included. Featuring homegrown asparagus, these recipes fresh from Foodland Ontario are tasty and visually appealing without being too fussy or time-consuming to prepare. They are definitely special enough to say “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Tips about asparagus tips: for maximum freshness, choose asparagus with tightly closed purple tips. It is the tips, not the thickness of the stalks, that indicate freshness. Wash and break off stalks where they easily snap. Finally, asparagus requires only about two minutes cooking in boiling water. Do not over-cook!

Grilled Asparagus and Goat Cheese Appetizers

Feature “jewel of the season” asparagus on crisp toasts with goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. The glaze is available at Vincenzo’s,  Westlake and Danforth, and other fine food stores. If the glaze is unavailable, substitute good quality balsamic vinegar.

1 baguette cut into half-inch (2 cm) slices
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 clove garlic, halved
12 oz (375 mL) asparagus
Pinch each, salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) goat cheese, softened
2 tbsp (25 mL) balsamic glaze

Brush 12 slices of baguette with 4 tsp (20 mL) of the olive oil. Place on greased grill over medium heat. Grill for two to four minutes turning once, until light golden colour. Transfer to serving platter. Rub each slice with cut side of garlic; set aside.

Wash asparagus and snap spears where they break naturally. If asparagus spears are thick, slice in half lengthwise. Place asparagus on rectangular grill topper or in grill basket. Brush with remaining oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat, turning once, until tender-crisp, about three to five minutes. Cut spears into thirds.

Alternative cooking technique: Baguette may be toasted in the oven rather than on the barbecue grill, and asparagus may be blanched in boiling water for two minutes rather than grilling.

Spread goat cheese evenly over each baguette slice. Top with asparagus spears. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. May be served warm or at room temperature. Serves six at two appetizers per person.

Asparagus, Chicken and Spinach Salad

Perfect for lunch or dinner, this visually attractive salad tastes as good as it looks. Serve with plenty of warm, fresh whole-grain baguette.

1 lb (500 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, preferably air-chilled
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed
2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
Pinch salt and fresh black pepper
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and dried, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups/2 L)
1 cup (250 mL) halved greenhouse cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced red onion

Smoked Paprika Lime Dressing:
1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil
3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh lime juice
1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and fresh black pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) plain 2% yogurt
2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey

In measuring cup whisk together oil, lime juice smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Pour half into large bowl; add chicken and turn to coat in marinade. Whisk yogurt and honey into remaining dressing and set aside.

Let chicken stand at room temperature for 10 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to six hours.

Place chicken on greased grill over medium heat. Brush with any remaining marinade in bowl. Close lid and grill for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once, or until no longer pink inside. Transfer to plate; cover and let stand for five minutes. Thinly slice chicken breasts crosswise.

Meanwhile, in large saucepan of boiling water, add asparagus and cook uncovered two to three minutes or until asparagus is tender crisp. Immediately drain in colander and while still hot cut on the diagonal into two inch (5 cm) pieces.

In large bowl, gently toss spinach, asparagus pieces, sliced chicken, cherry tomatoes and red onion.

Toss with remaining dressing to lightly coat and serve on individual serving plates. Makes four servings.

Roasted Asparagus, Trout and Potato Packages

Tender-crisp asparagus teams up with thinly sliced roasted potatoes and trout in this simple one-package dinner. Rainbow trout usually has the skin on. If you prefer skinless, have the skin removed at the fish counter.

3 potatoes (1½ lbs/750 g), peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch (6mm)
1 lb (500 g) rainbow trout fillets cut into four pieces, skin removed
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed (tough ends broken off)

1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh chopped dill
2 tsp (10 mL) grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line baking sheet with large piece of parchment paper. Toss sliced potatoes with 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil and bake in single layer on baking sheet for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Centre potato slices on parchment paper and arrange skinless fillets on top of potatoes; top with asparagus spears.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together remaining oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, dill, mustard and garlic. Pour dressing evenly over potatoes, trout and asparagus. Join opposite pieces of parchment together and fold under to form neat package. Return package to oven and roast about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender, fish flakes easily and asparagus is tender crisp. Makes four servings.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  –  janmainskitchen@yahoo.ca

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