Tag Archives: Asparagus

How Can You Forget About Homegrown Asparagus?

photo-411I forgot about the asparagus. I mean, I forgot to go check and see if there was some to harvest this week. How could that happen? I mean it’s only the coolest and most delicious thing growing right now. Fortunately, when I went down there this afternoon, only a few spears had gotten away from me–shot up into the sky, tips set to burst open like little rockets.


It happened because we are busy. This is a snapshot of the market garden which I took this morning. This year, the market garden is going to be filled almost entirely with greens and other things that require cover at this point, so it is not a very bucolic look. Waves and waves of Agribon (fabric row cover). Underneath lie baby bok choy, kale, chard, germinating carrots, japanese turnips, radishes and lettuce–all things we  have been planting like crazy. Fitting all that row cover over the hoops and stapling or weighing it down is a particular nuisance (it has to be uncovered for watering), but yes, we did sign up for this!


We’re still moving some seedlings (like the basil above) in and out of the house every morning, which is a bother, but until we get warmer nights, even the hoop house won’t quite do for these things.


Fortunately, I think our timing in the hoop house will be good–not long after these baby bok choy are ready to harvest, it will be time to plant the basil where they came out.

salad bowlYou’ll be happy to know that I haven’t forgotten to harvest the salad greens in the hoop house (unlike the asparagus). That would really be impossible since we are starting to sell them at the farm stand. Naturally, some of these make it into the house, so we are enjoying some mighty fine salads around here. Might be time for a little asparagus in that salad.

Or we might make asparagus fried rice! Yet another thing I forgot about–this recipe I developed for the latest issue of Martha’s Vineyard magazine!


A Letter Home from Camp Green Island Farm


Dear Mom and Dad,

Well the first day at camp was nothing like I thought it was going to be. Are you sure this is the camp with the beautiful brochure we looked at? Did you really mean to send me here?


First of all, we got up at like 6:30, way earlier than I’m used to. Then, instead of a nice breakfast of farm eggs and home-cured bacon, we trudged down to the green house to pick greens and radishes for the farm stand. That was okay except it was really cold at first and then it got really hot, so I had to, like, go back to the cabin to change my tee-shirt twice. Not sure you packed enough play clothes for me.

DSC_4896Then we had to water what seemed like two billion tomato seedlings. I thought maybe we’d at least get to run through a sprinkler or squirt each other, but they don’t let you do that here. Supposedly we are going to walk down to a creek later this week to collect watercress, but that’s hardly like going to the beach.

Later on we had to hike over to the smelly chicken coops and collect eggs. A hen tried to peck my earring off my earlobe when I grabbed her egg. It was pretty hot in there, too. And did I mention stinky? Plus, there are like hundreds of chickens so the bucket of eggs was really heavy. And then, you wouldn’t believe it, but we had to wash and package up all those eggs!

Then there was some excitement because the refrigerator at the farm stand broke. So the maintenance guy (he’s also the head counselor) had to stop what he was doing (fixing a barn roof I think) and come and haul another refrigerator out of the mess hall and saw off a piece of the farm stand counter to fit it in.


Our job was to move like 50 dozen eggs and lots of other stuff from one refrigerator to the other. And then sweep up the mess at the farm stand after he got that done.

DSC_4976In the afternoon we planted lettuce seedlings. I don’t know why as there already seem to be a lot of lettuce seedlings around this place. Only we don’t get to eat any—it’s all for the farm stand customers. We had hamburgers and pretzels last night for dinner. Can you believe it? Some farm fare. Oh, they did let us go down to the asparagus patch and cut asparagus, but there was only enough for like, one per camper.


The worst was the after-dinner activity. I thought we were going to build a camp fire, or have movie night or game night or something. Instead they stuck us out in the back field and had us pick rocks out of the dirt and rake them up to the tractor bucket.

photo-44There is one good thing about this camp—they let the camp dog and kitty sleep in your bunk with you. In fact, the farm dog pretty much comes along on all our activities with us.

So like, its’ only May, and I am supposed to be here all summer? When can you come pick me up? Next summer can I go to that camp where you go to the beach all day and lie in the sand?


Camper Sue

P.S. My counselor took these pictures. She is trying to make the place look nicer than it really is.




Asparagus-Leek Bisque for Mom; the Gift of a Child for Me

If my mom were here on Martha’s Vineyard with us this Sunday, this is what I would cook for her: Asparagus & Leek Bisque with Crème Fraiche & Tarragon and Classic Maryland Crab Cakes.

The silky soup (photo at right, recipe below and coming in The Fresh & Green Table) is delicious, easy to make, and would take advantage of the fabulous asparagus we’re now getting at Morning Glory Farm.

The crab cakes, well, they’re a family thing. When I developed that recipe for Fine Cooking magazine several years ago, I had to consult each of my family members to make sure I did not adulterate any nostalgic memories. The recipe really should be called Evans Family Classic Delaware Crab Cakes, because we spent a lot of time crabbing, picking crabs, making crab cakes, and eating crab every summer in Lewes Beach, Delaware. And for us, a crab cake is all about the crab (the blue crab!).

But my mom’s not visiting this weekend (she’s in Delaware), and since I picked on her last mother’s day by writing about her, I’m letting her off the hook this year. (Besides, she just got a brand new teeny tiny poodle puppy named Shortie to play with.)

Instead, I have to share this strange feeling I now get on Mother’s Day. I’m not a mother—well, at least, not an actual, bona fide legal full-time one. I always wanted to have kids, but it wasn’t to be. After I safely navigated my midlife crisis, I did briefly think about how I might still pull it off, but I never pursued any of the options. But God was looking out for me, I know now. Because into my life skipped Libby. She was seven, almost eight when I met her for the first time (all maybe 40 pounds of her—hence her father’s nicknames for her – “Noodle” and “Peanut”). I spent just a few hours with her, but the next time she came out from Falmouth to visit her father, she said, “Daddy, can we go over to Susie’s house?” That was the start of a very good thing. For both of us (actually, all three of us), I do believe.

Libby is blessed with an awesome family life in Falmouth—her mom Kelly totally understands her daughter’s personality and I admire how she nurtures it and encourages Libby’s unique strengths. (And I am especially grateful to Kelly for her generosity in welcoming me into Libby’s life.) Libby has two loving grandparents who live right next door to her—and a protective older brother to watch out for her, too. And when she comes out to the Island, she gets special time with the Dad who not only looks so much like her, but shares her love of nature and animals and everything outdoorsy. (And, oh, just happens to adore her, too.) And then there is Susie Time—in the kitchen cooking, over a board game, out for a walk with the dog, futzing around in the garden, or shopping at the farmers’ market. (That’s our feet in our farm boots, below.)

Last year, Roy bought me a plant (a beautiful lupine) on Mother’s Day and Libby brought me a necklace she’d made. I was so surprised and blown away, really. Kelly told me this week that Libby had something for me this Mother’s Day, but since Libby’s got an “away” soccer game, we won’t see her until next week. Honestly, it is hard to describe how I feel about the fact that Roy and Libby honor me as the Mom in our little family unit, even though we are only all together for part of every month. We do make the most of our time together, though, and I guess that’s what counts. But having the gift of Libby in my life is not something I will ever fully grasp in a tangible way. It’s not to be analyzed, just appreciated. Nothing short of a miracle—and a real privilege to watch this amazing girl grow up.

I will miss Libby this weekend. If she were here, we just might make that Asparagus Bisque and the Crab Cakes (she loves both). And I have something to give her, too—her very own copy of The Fresh & Green Table (I just got my early author copies). After all, it is dedicated to her and her Dad. And that’s pretty cool—how many nine-year-olds can walk into just about any bookstore and see their name in print? Well, this may be the first time for Libby, but I’m guessing it won’t be the last.

Photographs in this post: soup, Annabelle Breakey, from The Fresh and Green Table; crab cakes, Scott Phillips from finecooking.com. Boots by Roy Riley.

Asparagus & Leek Bisque with Crème Fraiche & Tarragon

This is a lovely, satisfying soup with the light flavors of spring, but the hearty back-up of earthy sautéed leeks. I love how well the crème fraiche, tarragon, and lemon work with the asparagus at the end. When you’re shopping for asparagus, you’ll probably want to go ahead and buy 4 bunches (of medium-thin stalks; bunches are about 1 lb. each) to be on the safe side (unless you find much bigger bunches!). You’ll be trimming all the tough ends to wind up with 1 1/2 pounds for the soup; plus you’ll be cutting up a few stalks to blanch and use as garnish. This soup would be lovely with a few crostini on the side, topped with warm goat cheese and maybe a little smoked salmon. This recipe is from The Fresh and Green Table (Chronicle Books, June 2012, Susie Middleton).


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 5 ounces, from about 2 large leeks)

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup dry white wine (such as a Sauvignon Blanc)

1 1/2  pound trimmed asparagus (from about 3 bunches of medium-thin asparagus) cut into 1/2-inch pieces; plus 3 trimmed stalks, sliced on the diagonal, about 1-inch long

1/4 cup crème fraiche

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon


In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other large sauce pot, heat the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, the celery, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are mostly softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are shrunken and the leeks have taken on some golden color, about 7 to 8 minutes more.

Add the ginger and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until mostly reduced (this will happen quickly). Add the (1 1/2 lb.) asparagus, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 5 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the asparagus are just tender, about 7 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and let the soup cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drop in the extra asparagus pieces and cook until firm-tender but still bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Puree the soup in three batches (fill the jar only about half way or just a little more) and cover the blender lid partially with a folded dishtowel (leave a vent opening uncovered to let steam out) to prevent hot soup from splashing on you. Combine the batches in a mixing bowl, then return to the (rinsed) soup pot. Whisk in the crème fraiche, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tarragon, and the lemon zest. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or the remaining 1/2 teaspoon tarragon. (If you plan to eat the soup right away, you will most likely want to add the last 1/2 teaspoon tarragon. If you plan to eat it later, hold back, as the tarragon intensifies just slightly over time.)

Reheat the soup very gently. Serve hot garnished with the reserved asparagus pieces.

Serves 4, Yields 8 cups

Asparagus, Eggs & Croissants in a Recipe for Easter Brunch

Every year around Easter time (and believe it or not, this is sixburnersue.com’s third Easter), I start writing something about asparagus, even though we’re still weeks away from harvesting any local asparagus. I’ve always reassured myself that at least the vegetable is now in season in California; and after all, that’s where most of the country’s asparagus comes from—during the proper asparagus season. (Or at least it used to.) I’ve always found it ridiculous to buy asparagus out of season from South America (so I simply don’t eat asparagus in winter), but now I find it even more ridiculous that most of the asparagus in stores right now is coming from Mexico, which has underpriced California growers by so much that even California grocery stores sell Mexican asparagus.

Okay, so despite my rant (sorry about that), I still wanted to give you a tasty asparagus recipe for Easter, so I went to the store and bought asparagus to cook with this morning—and I tried not to look at the label of origin. I’m comforting myself with the delicious bread pudding that just came out of the oven, and I am also using the excuse that this dish is really all about the eggs. I know, I know—I have a thing about farm-fresh eggs, too, with their rich marigold yolks and bouncy whites.

But here’s the thing—it may be impossible to get local or even U.S. asparagus this Easter, but you’ve got more and more choice in eggs at the grocery store now. Look for the USDA Organic label (even Costco has Organic eggs!), the Certified Humane label, or eggs that say “pastured.” Pastured eggs come from hens that truly do range over grass. (Unfortunately, the term “free-range” can be applied to hens that simply have a bit more room to stretch than the typical factory egg-layer which has 1 square foot of space allotted to her. Some free-range eggs truly do come from “free-range” hens, but the term is a loose one.) And then there’s always the “grow-your-own” option! Backyard chicken keeping is one of the biggest trends going, so why not join in?! But if you’re planning to get baby chicks for Easter (our 50 babies arrive April 25), you will have to wait five or six months before they lay eggs.

In the mean time, enjoy this eggy treat with friends and family this Easter morning and keep the spirit of new beginnings in your heart.


Asparagus, Leek, Bacon & Croissant Bread Pudding
While I love challah bread in a savory bread pudding, croissants are a wonderful option, too, and they give the final dish a lovely ethereal texture. (No need for fancy croissants—just pick some up at the grocery store bakery.) There’s no trick to cooking a bread pudding (you can even call it a strata if you like), so don’t be intimidated. I like to bake mine soon after assembling (I let the bread soak up custard for 20 minutes or so), but I have held them in the fridge for a few hours before baking, so feel free to do that if you like. (Remove from fridge a half-hour or so before baking.)
: Breakfast & Brunch
Serves: 6
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal (to yield about 2¼ cups)
  • 7 eggs
  • 1¾ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sliced fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ pound day-old grocery store or bakery croissants, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rub a 9×13-inch (3-quart) baking dish all over with a little butter.
  2. In a large heavy nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, about 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and break up into smaller pieces when cool. Pour off half the bacon fat from the skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter and the leeks. Season the leeks with a pinch of salt, cover, and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let the leeks cool.
  3. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil and the remaining half-tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the asparagus and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is crisp-tender (it will still be somewhat green), about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a plate.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, the milk, the cream, the chives, the thyme, the nutmeg, a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk well to combine.
  5. Arrange half of the croissant pieces over the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle half of the asparagus, half of the leeks, half of the Gruyere, and half of the bacon over the bread. Repeat with the remaining bread, veggies, cheese, and bacon.
  6. Pour the egg mixture evenly over all. (Start at one end and pour slowly back and forth). Using your hands, gently press down on the bread and veggies to force the custard to evenly surround everything. Let sit for 20 minutes. Bake until the bread pudding has risen and is set and dry in the middle (it will be golden all over), about 40 to 44 minutes.


Easter Asparagus: Keep it Simple by Roasting or Grilling

I am, as they say, in the weeds this week. Not the garden weeds (yet), just life weeds. They happen to be good weeds (sorry to be prolonging this metaphor) – opportunities I’m grateful to have, just all a little too close together, timing-wise.

Tomorrow, for instance, I take a quick trip off-island to do a demo and book signing at Andover Books, in Andover, Massachusetts. When I get back on Friday, I have an essay to write for a magazine deadline—and a first look at the copyedited manuscript of Fresh & Green for Dinner, back to me from my publisher, Chronicle Books, for comments before moving on to the galley stage.

I realized today that I haven’t given a lick of thought to what we’ll have for Easter dinner—nor have I set aside time to develop a new Easter side dish to post for you all on the blog. My apologies. But just so I don’t leave you high and dry, I thought I’d offer you a piece of advice about everyone’s favorite Easter vegetable, asparagus: If you’re cooking for a crowd, keep it simple and pick a method like grilling or roasting.

While I’ve already posted about three methods I love for cooking asparagus (stir-frying, sautéing, and quick-braising), unfortunately these methods are best for serving three or four people. (And Easter dinner usually means at least a few more seats at the table.) Once you start overcrowding the sauté or stir-fry pan, you risk overcooking asparagus (steaming it before it browns). I also find poaching and boiling large amounts of asparagus to be risky, too (tips get overcooked or stem ends get undercooked).

What I love about grilling and roasting is that you can cook lots of asparagus at once. The big broad expanse of a gas grill’s grate or the generous surface area of a large sheet pan can accommodate twice as many asparagus as a sauté pan. Also, if you’re cooking a big ol’ leg of lamb and maybe some mashed potatoes, suddenly a quick and simple side dish becomes very appealing. The other great thing about roasted or grilled asparagus is that they are delicious without embellishment. Cooked with oil and salt and sweetened up by all that high heat, they can drop right on the plate. (Certainly a little lemon butter, a sprinkling of ginger-spiked soy sauce, or a few shavings of Parmigiano wouldn’t hurt, either.)

If you’re game, here are the basic methods:

Roasted Asparagus: Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Trim ends from asparagus. For every pound of trimmed asparagus, toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. kosher salt. Line a large heavy-duty sheet pan (or pans) with parchment paper. Arrange the asparagus in one loose layer (try not to crowd) across the sheet pan or pans. Cook for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender and a little bit wrinkly. (Two sheet pans may take slightly longer to cook, but err on the side of undercooking, not overcooking.) Serve right away.

Grilled Asparagus: Preheat a gas grill on medium-high. Trim ends from asparagus. For every pound of trimmed asparagus, toss with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Arrange the asparagus at an angle on the grill grates. Cover and cook until nicely marked on the bottom, about 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully turn over the asparagus, a few at a time (keep them at an angle to the grate), cover, and cook until the other side is just marked, about 1 minute. (Do not overcook; they will still be bright green.) Transfer the asparagus to a tray or plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: 1 pound of asparagus will serve about 4 people as a side dish. Cook 2 pounds for 8 people.

Quickest Asparagus Recipe Yet—And a Pretty Egg Pancake Makes it Lunch for One

While I wait (and wait) for our local asparagus, it occurs to me that everyone else is not waiting. The grocery stores are full of asparagus (from elsewhere, wherever that is) and it is hard to walk down the produce aisles without snatching up a bunch. I understand, really I do, and that is probably why my two blogs on asparagus from last year are getting hit up a lot these days. So okay, I can’t be my stubborn self and wait another month to offer up more asparagus recipes. Especially because there are about a gazillion different ways to cook asparagus—almost all of them pretty darn quick—so I can come back to this provocative vegetable again. Soon.

While I love quick-braising and sautéing asparagus, I think the method that may be the absolute speediest may offer up some of the best flavor, too. It’s stir-frying. Two to three minutes, and you’ve got a beguiling roasty-toasty flavor and a nice crisp-tender texture. A few keys here: Slice the asparagus thinly on the bias for the best browning; don’t use a lot of fat; keep the heat cranked up. (I love the bowl shape of my non-stick stir-fry pan, but you can substitute with a nonstick skillet—just stir more frequently.) I like to include a bit of garlic, some sliced scallions or shallots (as in the recipe below), or a combo of ginger and garlic in an asparagus stir-fry—but not much more. I don’t make a finishing pan sauce for it, in order to let that pure flavor shine through. (I do, however, sometimes like a cool, creamy garnish for this dish—crème frâiche is lovely.)

One of my favorite destinations for stir-fried asparagus is a little flat egg “pancake” (really just an unscrambled scrambled egg), which I dress up with fresh herbs to look pretty. (Yes, eggs—no surprise.) I tumble the asparagus and shallots out of the pan and onto the pancake, garnish the whole thing with a dollop of crème frâiche and a few more herbs, and I have a lovely spring lunch in less than 10 minutes (less than 5 minutes of cooking). But you can also double the asparagus recipe below and serve it as a quick side dish for dinner, too.

A Quick Note about Printable Recipes: I have finally figured out a way to provide you with printable recipes, through Google Documents. (Just click on the printable recipe link below the recipe title.) I set this up with last week’s fennel blog and will try to do this going forward until I can afford a website update and find a better way. (This should, I hope, at least make my Mom happy!) Of course you can still print the blog posts with the recipes imbedded in them, but it’s not a very usable format (and expends excess paper, too). The printable recipes are simply Word documents.

Stir-Fried Asparagus & Shallots on Fresh Herb Egg Pancake for One

Printable Version of Recipe

For this stir-fry, be sure to slice the asparagus sharply on the diagonal. It not only looks pretty, but the asparagus will also cook more evenly and the interior of the stalks will brown better. Crème frâiche is available in small tubs now in most groceries. Check both the cheese and dairy sections. If you can’t find it (or don’t want to bother with another trip to the grocery), you could try a little sour cream loosened with a bit of milk or a bit of thick yogurt or even fresh goat cheese. I absolutely love what fresh mint does here in both the pancake and as a garnish, but I usually combine it with chives and/or parsley, which hold their bright green color better. I call for cooking the veggies first and then the egg, but if you’re even a moderately good multi-tasker you can cook them both at the same time.

For the veggies:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced asparagus (cut on the diagonal, 3/8- to 1/2-inch thick and 2 inches long), from about 1/2 medium bunch (or 1/2 pound) asparagus, trimmed
1/4 cup (scant) thinly sliced shallot (about 1/2 medium to large shallot)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the egg pancake:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon half-n-half or heavy cream
big pinch kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 scant tablespoon combo fresh baby mint leaves (or thinly sliced mint) and small parsley leaves and/or sliced chives (plus a sprinkling more for garnish)
2 teaspoons crème frâiche for garnishing

Make the veggies: In a large nonstick stir-fry pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen up and shimmer), add the asparagus, the shallots, and the 1/8 teaspoon salt, and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally for the first minute, and then more frequently, until most of the asparagus are browned around the edges and the shallots are softened and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. (Pay attention here—this goes fast.) Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the veggies to a plate while you make the egg.

Make the egg: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, half ‘n half or cream, a little salt, and a grind or two of fresh pepper. In a small nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, swirl it around in the pan to cover the bottom. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and do not stir. Sprinkle or arrange the herb leaves or cut herbs over the top of the egg. Let the egg cook until it has set, about 3 to 4 minutes. The egg will set from the outside edges in. When the center of the egg looks just barely set, remove the egg from the pan and slide it on a small pretty salad plate, keeping the herb side up. (The bottom will be golden, the top should be still slightly soft.)

Pile the asparagus and shallot mixture on top of the egg; garnish with the crème fraiche and extra herbs. Eat right away.

Serves 1

A Whole Plate of Quick-Braised Asparagus, Just for Me

I am home today roasting a bazillion plum tomatoes for a nibble I’m going to pass at my book signing tonight. There are sheet trays of tomatoes in various stages covering almost every surface in the kitchen (which is now thankfully a little less cluttered, as many of the 465 seedlings have gone to the farm garden). Bottles of olive oil, cutting boards covered with garlic slivers and thyme sprigs, and bowls of tomato seeds for the compost cover every other bit of remaining surface area.

It would have been easiest to fix myself a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. But no, I had to get out the sauté pan, because I’ve been ogling the gorgeous asparagus I bought at Morning Glory Farm yesterday. Every year I look forward to these purple behemoths; they have amazing flavor and defy the spindly Chilean spears that haunt the fluorescent aisles of the grocery store. These asparagus—you can tell they grew in the dirt, broke ground one cold March morning, and burst onto the scene with the bravado of a groundhog.

Actually, I was really glad I got the sauté pan out, as this whole recipe—one of my very favorite preparations for asparagus—takes, start to finish, less than 15 minutes to make. And the depth of flavor the vegetable gets from the browning, the quick simmer in chicken broth, and the finish of a little Dijon, butter, and herbs, is just astounding. (Okay, I realize that sounds a little boasty, this being my recipe. But if you make it and disagree, please let me know.) And for once, I got to eat the whole dish myself. Lucky me.

Quick-Braised Asparagus with Dijon-Herb Pan Sauce

This recipe was adapted from my cookbook, Fast, Fresh & Green.


1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons dry white wine or 2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 bunch medium-thick asparagus, each spear trimmed to six inches in length (to yield about 10 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme or 1 to 2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh chervil

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Combine the chicken broth and white wine or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.

In a 10-in straight-sided sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the asparagus and salt and toss the asparagus well to coat. Arrange in one layer and cook, without stirring, until the undersides are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Using tongs, turn each spear over and cook, without stirring, just until the other side is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. (If the asparagus are very thick, go one minute more.) Carefully (it will sputter) pour the liquid into the pan and immediately cover it. Simmer until the liquid reduces almost completely (1 or 2 teaspoons will be left), about 2 minutes. Uncover, take the pan off the heat, and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, most of the thyme or chervil, and the Dijon. Stir gently with a silicone spatula to mix the mustard with the melting butter and to incorporate any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter or plates and pour the pan sauce over it, scraping all of the sauce out of the pan. Garnish with the remaining herbs.

Serves 3 (as a side dish) or 1 for lunch!

A Prettier Way to Cut Asparagus & A Tasty Easter Side Dish

Sometimes it’s all about the cut. Take asparagus. Everyone loves the long, lanky, sexy look of a whole asparagus spear. (Sorry—sounds like I’m describing a brand of Gap jeans). Why would you want to wreck that by cutting it up? Oh, yeah, there’s that awkward moment when you’re trying to cut those long spears with a fork on your holiday dinner plate. And the even more awkward moment when you push the woody bottom half of the spears over to the side of your plate because they’re undercooked. Now consider this—with a few extra seconds of work upfront, you can have a beautiful, evenly cooked, easy-to-eat asparagus side dish that can take on a variety of flavors, too.

So I’m going to ignore my mother (who claims I tend to get a bit fussy about my vegetable cuts), and suggest that you try slicing your asparagus on the diagonal (sharply…at a sharp angle…on the bias…however you want to say it) for a change. Use a small knife and cut a few spears at a time. Position the knife at something like a 30-degree angle to your cutting board and slice the spears across at about 2-inch intervals. (See photo.) You’ll usually get about 5 or 6 pieces out of a (trimmed) spear.

It doesn’t matter whether your asparagus are thin, medium, or thick, because, by slicing, you’ll be averaging out their thickness. I especially like to cut our big, thick, purple, local asparagus (below) this way, but we’re still a month away from harvesting those beauties. (When the time comes, I’ll give you another great method for cooking thick asparagus.) Right now, many of you will be stuck with what I think are overly-thin asparagus sold at the grocery store. No matter, they will still be delicious.

Once sliced, these evenly-sized asparagus pieces are perfect for stir-fries and sautés. The recipe I’m including here is a bit Italian-country-rustic but very flavorful. (It would be a nice side for roasted salmon.) If you wanted something different (and vegetarian), you could sauté a few cremini mushrooms and/or sliced shallots in place of the prosciutto. Or you could keep things simple by seasoning the asparagus with just a bit of sautéed garlic and a finish of lemon.

You can also easily scale this kind of recipe up or down; just be sure to change the size of your skillet so that your asparagus fit comfortably in it.  Cooking times may also vary on different stovetops, so keep an eye on your asparagus when sautéing them. They’ll first turn bright green and then begin to brown in spots. You’ll want them to be glistening and toasty looking all over, but still a little bit firm to the bite. It’s best to eat these right away, as they continue to cook off the heat and they cool down quickly. However, if you have leftovers, they make an excellent base for a frittata.

Sautéed Asparagus with Prosciutto Crisps & Parmigiano

Cutting thinly sliced prosciutto into strips can be tricky, as they tend to stick together. You can either cut each slice separately, or stack the slices and pull the strips apart after cutting. Either way, arrange the strips across your cutting board (rather than piling them), which will make them easier to transfer to the skillet in one layer.


1 ½ pounds (2 small bunches) medium asparagus spears, ends trimmed or snapped away (to yield about 1 pound)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced into strips about ¼-inch wide and 2-inches long

kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

½ teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Regianno


Slice the asparagus on a very sharp angle (on the bias) into pieces that are about 2 inches long and about ¼-inch wide at their widest point. Include the ends, which will be shorter pieces.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the prosciutto pieces and cook until crisp (they will turn a darker red color, too), about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the prosciutto crisps to a plate. Add the remaining teaspoon olive oil and the asparagus to the pan. Season the asparagus with about a scant ½ teaspoon of salt. Return the pan to the heat, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until all the asparagus pieces are glistening and browned in spots, about 5 to 7 minutes. They will still be firm, but not crunchy. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the balsamic vinegar (it will sizzle). Stir right away and keep stirring until the butter has melted. Stir in half of the prosciutto crisps and half of the Parmigiano, and transfer all to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining prosciutto crisps and Parmigiano.

Serves 4