April: Asparagus – One of Spring’s First Vegetables!

Asparagus - One of Spring's Early Vegetables

As a child, I hated asparagus! I will have to say it’s one of those foods that was an acquired taste for me. It was years before I was willing to try it again after the first time I tasted it. Maybe that is because it was so mushy and horrible; barely even green anymore and worse, it had come out of a can!

Now, it’s one of my favorite year-round vegetables! Since it is grown in South America, we are fortunate to be able to find asparagus in the produce department all year but Spring is the time to get it fresh locally! When I lived in East Contra Costa County, I could see the fields of asparagus growing just over the levy. Up close, the plant is really pretty with delicate and lacy fronds similar to dill weed.

One spring my family and I visited the annual Asparagus Festival in the city of Stockton California where they celebrate the asparagus harvest by preparing it in some really creative ways….like ice cream. Pass. I must say the beer- battered, fried version was my favorite way to enjoy it then…my tastes have changed a little though.

Now I enjoy the thin stalks lightly steamed and tossed with a lemon-herb vinaigrette or quickly stir-fried with thinly sliced yellow squash and scallions. Below is a recipe that works for even the large, thick stalks.

Tip: Bend one stalk from the bunch until it snaps This indicates the point where it is most tender. Cut the rest of the stalks at that same length and discard the ends. If they are particularly tough, peel the asparagus to remove the skins but not completely necessary as this recipe calls for the roasted vegetables to be pureed and the skins just add texture and create the beautiful green color!

Serve with Parmesan Crisps and a green salad. I know you’ll love this client favorite!

You don’t have to be gluten-intolerant or avoiding dairy products to really appreciate this delicious soup!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Roasted Asparagus Soup with Tarragon
Serves 8

Asparagus is delicate, tender and fairly inexpensive when in season. This flavorful herbaceous soup makes a lovely light lunch or a memorable start to a special dinner.

  • 3 pounds asparagus, bottoms trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, rough chopped (substitute 3 large shallots for a little more zip)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 7½ cups gluten-free chicken broth, divided (can substitute vegetable broth)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • ¼ cup white wine, optional
  • 3 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1½ cups rice milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (can use 1 – 2 teaspoons dried but add when pureeing the hot vegetables in the food processor and let it heat with the soup to soften and impart it’s flavor)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss Asparagus pieces, onion and garlic cloves together with the salt and spread on two cookie sheets or one large roasting pan.
  3. Roast 35 – 40 minutes, tossing asparagus once, until lightly golden yet still tender. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  4. Set aside 24 pieces of asparagus for garnish. Puree remainder in a food processor, adding 1 cup chicken broth. Don’t rush this; mixture should be smooth.
  5. Add puree to pot and whisk in remaining broth. Add more salt and the pepper to taste and white wine. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook 10 minutes.
  6. Whisk potato starch into rice milk until smooth. Add to pot and cook 10 more minutes.
  7. Remove soup from heat. Stir in tarragon (only if using fresh). Garnish each bowl with pieces of reserved roasted asparagus and serve hot.

Each serving contains 203 calories, 12g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 305mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 9g protein.

This recipe by Cybele Pascal, author of The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook (Vital Health Publishing), was published in the Spring 2007 issue of Living Without magazine.

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