Before I share these simple meals there are three things you should know about me: I love an elaborate breakfast, try to limit my meat intake and [un]fortunately I'm the only one in the house who loves asparagus! Which means I don't buy them often and when I do, I feel compelled to make the most of them. Read through the entire article to see how.
Being Flemish, I must say that Asparagus à la Flamande is one of my favourite appetizers ever, so simple and with a surprising burst of flavour. My grandmother-of-the-heart was crazy about the 'white gold' of the Belgian soil and prepared them every which way possible while asparagus were in season, but her favourite was Cream of Asparagus Soup which means I always have to make my own version of it in her honour. But as mentioned I do love an elaborate breakfast, especially on a Sunday morning enjoyed with a good old black-and-white film. It's perfection. And for me that means Asparagus and Smoked Salmon with Toast, a super versatile breakfast or brunch choice with many options. To boot, like my husband, I love the occasional spaghetti carbonara, but I also love my very own Tortellini-Asparagus con Carbonara.
Four 1 - 2 person meals with one bundle of fresh asparagus plus one jar (which I keep on-hand in the pantry all year long.) For me... it's a blissful day or two of enjoying near-vegetarian meals with minimal prep time and clean-up. There are a few ingredients I have to purchase like the asparagus, smoked salmon, and tortellini. The rest of the ingredients like eggs, broth, cream, leeks, lemon and parsley I usually have in the house anyway. I use a large saucepan, a few utensils and a cutting board. That's IT!
Here are four ways to enjoy asparagus!
Total list of Ingredients (yes! all 4 meals)
- 1 bundle of asparagus (white)
- 1 jar of whole white asparagus (retain juice!)
- 1 bundle of parsley (finely chopped - minus stems but freeze stems for future vegetable soup)
- 1 lemon washed
- 1/4 of dried thyme
- pepper & salt
- bay leaf
- real butter
- bottle of creme entiere
( 1 person, or make it a shared plate for 2):
- 2 (to 4) slices of bread for toasting
- 2 (to 4) slices of salmon
- 1 (to 2) eggs - can be hard boiled, soft boiled, or poached!
- 1 finely chopped shallot
- spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche
- handful of chopped leeks (white only)
- 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube (Knorr)
- Juice from the asparagus in jar minus 1 shot glass for the cream sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
- bay leaf
- 1 small potato
- 1 shot glass dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio works)
- 1 shot glass of the juice from the asparagus in a jar
- Slice of lemon and some zest
The asparagus: base method
- Break bottom of the asparagus in its natural place by bending slightly about 3 cm (1.5 inch) from the bottom of the spear and letting it snap off.
- Peel the top part of the asparagus with a peeler (thin slicer) beginning just below the head
- Peel the snapped off bottoms as well, as they are flavourful and good to make broth.
- Add the fresh asparagus to boiling/lightly salted water
- Check after about 5 minutes if tender, and every minute after that!
- Lift the spears from the broth and set aside to drain
- Divide the bundle into three portions
- Set the broth aside in the saucepan
- Finely chop an entire bundle of curly leaf parsley
Breakfast: Asparagus with smoked salmon and toast
- As simple as the picture
- Arrange a pretty plate with smoked salmon and the first 1/3 bundle of asparagus
- Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche and piece of lemon for the salmon
- Finely shop a small shallot
- Boil one or two eggs - choose hard boiled, soft boiled or poached!
- Butter the toast
- Parsley for garnish
- make it a poached egg topped with Hollandaise sauce
- make it Eggs Benedict with asparagus on the side -> layer a toasted crumpet (English muffin), butter, Canadian or English bacon, poached egg, Hollandaise sauce
- Vegetarian versions omit ham and fish
Asparagus à la Flamande (appetizer with any fancy menu, or a light lunch served with soup and baguette)
- Boil an egg - hard boiled for this (7 - 8 minutes)
- Chop the egg into little morsels
- Gently melt butter in the microwave
- Heat the second 1/3 bundle of asparagus gently on an appetizer plate
- Top with the chopped egg in a thick line across the asparagus
- Season with salt and pepper
- Top with a good spoonful (or two) of the freshly chopped parsley
- Drizzle 2 spoonfuls of molten butter over the eggs/ asparagus
- Serve immediately with lemon to squeeze as garnish or squeeze some lemon over the meal before serving (serve warm)
Cream of Asparagus Soup
- Broth you have waiting in the saucepan on the stove
- Add bouillon cube
- Add slice of lemon (optional - soup will be more tart and refreshing, especially nice on a warm spring day!)
- Add bay leaf
- Cut heads off the jarred asparagus about 4 cm and set aside for serving
- chop the rest of the asparagus and add to broth
- Add juice from asparagus jar (minus a shot glass set aside to flavour the sauce)
- Add peeled/cubed potato
- Add handful of chopped leeks (white only - I keep this on hand in the freezer for soups or fish)
- Pepper to taste
- Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until leeks and potato are tender
- Remove bayleaf !!
- Blend until smooth
- Return to the saucepan and stove
- Adjust salt & pepper, add a little thyme
- Add spoonful of chopped parsley and the (jar asparagus) heads you set aside
- Simmer 5 minutes and it's ready to serve!
- TIP: make it light by using a small amount of courgette (cut about a thumb-long piece from a courgette OR even just the seedy heart of a courgette is an excellent way to give a creamy flavour to soups or sauces.) But my grandmother would urge you to put a lump of butter in the soup in the end.
Tortellini con Asparagus à la Creme
Now that the soup is ready we can return the pot to the stove and use our third 1/3 of the fresh asparagus for the creme sauce
- Chop the tips off at about 2 - 4 cm (1 - 1.5 inch) and set aside
- Chop the rest of the asparagus into 1 - 2 cm pieces and add to saucepan
- Add butter, slice of lemon and spoonful of parsley
- Let the butter melt/sizzle, but don't brown it!! (You want white sauce)
- Remove lemon slice
- Add shot glass of white wine
- Add shot glass of juice from jar
- Add cream till the asparagus are covered (single layer)
- Add salt & pepper to taste
- Add fresh asparagus heads
- Simmer the sauce until it thickens
- Set aside for dinner. Cook fresh spinach and ricotta tortellini per directions, toss with the sauce and shave some Gruyere or Comte over the top to serve!
- TIP: add an egg yolk to the sauce for a lovely Carbonara touch and call it Vegetarian Carbonara
In my case, I had tortellini the next day. My husband had half the tortellini with spaghetti sauce from the freezer and I with my deliciously lemony asparagus à la crème. It bought me another meat-free day. I also used zucchini to make my soup creamy because I had the cream sauce.
These meals are super easy to make -all in one day, or not- starting from that one point, just one bundle of fresh asparagus plus one jar. Treat yourself to four luxury meals for under 20 Euros altogether. Each one is a scrumptious, a guilty pleasure. And they are fancy enough to prepare in larger quantities for your next dinner party.
P.S. Buy local when you can!