It's true that asparagus is available year-round now, but its real season is spring. So here is a recipe that puts the jolly green stalks to good use: Springtime Asparagus Puree. When shopping for asparagus, look for spears that are crisp and snappy, with tight, purple-ish heads. Those are the best indicators of freshness.
At home, stand the stalks up in a container or vase filled about a quarter of the way with water. If you're not going to use the asparagus right away, put a plastic bag over the top and store it in the refrigerator. When you're ready to cook it, rinse the asparagus and snap the tough ends off the bottom. It might seem like you're wasting a lot, but those ends are tough and stringy. Snap them about midway up the stalk, or where they want to break. Do this enough times and you'll know.
Two of the most simple and delicious ways to eat asparagus are to steam it until crisp-tender and toss it with a little butter or roast it in the oven, tossed gently with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
One more way is this puree. It's adapted from a recipe that appeared in the spring 2009 issue of Edible Finger Lakes magazine, and it's a snap to make.
Asparagus is available pretty much anytime and anywhere, but do yourself a favor and seek out some that is locally grown. The Regional Market on Park Street is open year-round on Saturdays and the Thursday market there reopens next week.
Springtime Asparagus Puree
You will need:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2.25 pounds asparagus, ends snapped almost halfway up, cut in small pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bunch or 1 10-ounce bag spinach (not baby spinach), washed and coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream, half and half or milk
Salt and pepper, as needed
Heat the butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium flame. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add asparagus, stirring to coat, then add spinach. Cook about 7 minutes, stirring vegetables from time to time, until the spinach has wilted considerably. Add broth and water and give everything a good stir. Cook cook 20 to 25 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly then puree it using an immersion blender. Go through the soup with a slotted spoon, fishing out any strands of asparagus that might be in there.
Add cream, blend, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Makes 6 to 8 servings.