RECIPE: B.C. asparagus season has begun, celebrate with 3 delicious recipes

The perfect spring breakfast, lunch or dinner is soft boiled eggs with perfect local asparagus soldiers.

There is only one time of year to eat asparagus and that's in the spring when it is available locally.

As soon as asparagus is picked, it begins to lose flavour as the sugar turns to starch. After days of travel, by the time it hits the grocery store imported asparagus has nothing to offer but looks. It has been robbed of the beautiful earthy sweetness that makes asparagus a royal treat.

B.C. asparagus begins to arrive in late April and the season is very short, usually ending by early June. Local asparagus is found at farmers markets, road-side stands and a few select grocery stores.  Look for bright green or purple tinged asparagus tips with firm stalks. The asparagus should snap cleanly when broken.  During the COVID-19 pandemic check your favourite farmers markets to see how to order on-line for home delivery or pick-up.

Sometimes the most simple dish is best. Take a spin on the classic soft-boiled eggs and soldiers (thin slices of toast) and add asparagus spears. It’s a perfect no-fuss dinner that both children and adults will enjoy. When dinner is this easy break out a glass of B.C. bubbles, it’s a perfect pairing.

Martha Stewart was one of the first to provide an asparagus tart using puff pastry with her book Everyday Food: Great Food Fast published in 2007 by Clarkson Potter. I tweaked her Asparagus and Gruyere tart recipe over the years by adding prosciutto and sometimes a hint of mustard. It is rich, sinful and pairs beautifully with a local B.C. Gruner Veltliner.

The second asparagus tart recipe celebrates spring. This is a family recipe that started with what was in the fridge and the fresh mint growing in the garden. The tart is made with Herb Boursin cheese combined with ricotta, a touch of crème fraiche and sprinkled with fresh mint. This tart pairs beautifully with a local Rosé and I love to serve it for lunch with a simple salad of mixed greens.

Crème Fraiche sounds fancy but it's simple to make. In a glass bowl, pour one cup of whipping cream then simply stir in one tablespoon of either buttermilk or sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 24 hours and then transfer to the fridge to store.

Enjoy these three recipes to celebrate asparagus season:

Soft-Boiled Eggs & Soldiers with Asparagus Spears

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 eggs, room temperature
4 slices white bread
20 asparagus spears
Butter
Sea salt & black pepper

Directions:

Depending on the size of the asparagus stalks, boil in plenty of water for 3 to 5 minutes or roast them with a little olive oil at 400 degrees for five to 10 minutes. Remove the boiled or roasted asparagus and sprinkle with sea salt.

Place eggs in a saucepan. Cover with at least one inch of water. Cover saucepan with lid and bring water to boil over high heat. Once water comes to a boil, remove saucepan from heat and let sit for three minutes. Remove eggs from saucepan and rinse quickly under water. Place eggs in egg cups. Smash the top of the large end with a spoon and remove the top. 

Toast bread in a toaster. Smother with butter. Cut into thin strips (soldiers).

Arrange the soldiers and roasted asparagus spears beside the egg cup with a small spoon. Dip each soldier with an asparagus spear into the warm yellow heaven of soft-boiled eggs and enjoy. Use the small spoon to eat up any remaining egg. Don’t let your soldiers go into battle without an asparagus spear. This will get your kids to eat asparagus.

Asparagus Tart two ways

Gruyere cheese and salty prosciutto take this asparagus tart to the next level.
Gruyere cheese and salty prosciutto take this asparagus tart to the next level.

Asparagus & Gruyere Tart w/ Prosciutto

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed using package directions.
2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
7 slices of prosciutto
1-1/2 pounds asparagus
1 egg
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.

On a floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle to fit your baking sheet.  If you want to be fancy and have a straight tart, trim the uneven edges. I personally like the slightly uneven edge of a homemade puff pastry tart so I never bother.

Place the pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife score the dough one inch in from the edges to make a border. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the border at half-inch intervals so this part of the dough will stay flat while the border puffs up. Brush the one-inch border with egg wash. Bake the puff pastry until  slightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Remove the puff pastry from the oven, and cover inside the border with Gruyere cheese. Arrange the asparagus spears in a single layer over the cheese. You can simply alternate ends and tips or use your own artistic inspiration to arrange the asparagus. Drizzle the asparagus spears with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until asparagus spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add prosciutto slices. It's best served warm.

Asparagus tarts are so easy but present like a pro.
Asparagus tarts are so easy but present like a pro.

Celebrate Spring Asparagus Tart

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed using package directions.
1 package of Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese (most grocery stores carry this French creamy cheese)
1 cup of ricotta cheese
2 heaping Tbsp crème fraiche (recipe above)
1-1/2 pounds medium asparagus
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn or chopped roughly
1 egg
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk the egg with one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.

Combine package of boursin cheese with ricotta cheese and two heaping tablespoons of crème fraiche. Mix well.

On a floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle to fit your baking sheet. Place the pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife score the dough one inch in from the edges to make a border. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the border at half-inch intervals so this part of the dough will stay flat while the border puffs up. Brush the one-inch border with egg wash. Bake the puff pastry until slightly golden, approximately 10 minutes.

Remove the puff pastry from the oven. Spread cheese mixture within the border of the puff pastry. Arrange asparagus on top and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until asparagus spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with mint leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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