Feeding the Family: Spring Asparagus Recipes

It's been a rough "spring" here in Minnesota. There have been a few peeks of sunshine, followed by gray rainy days, and even snow. While we're fortunate not to have tornadoes, everyone looks a little glum, save on those few, lovely days that have been far too infrequent of late.

Different foods say spring to different people. Gabriela yearned for lamb recently, and went to Barbette to get her fix. For me, though, asparagus is the food that tells me spring is really here. I visited Germany several years ago in April. Every restaurant had a special featuring spargel, in celebration of this springtime vegetable phenomenon. The asparagus most valued in Germany, though, were fat, white spears that looked as if they'd been grown in the dark -- not the lithe green stalks I prefer.

Through March, April, and May, I keep a close watch on the price cards for organic asparagus in the produce aisle at the Eastside Food Coop. The origin gets closer and the price drops as warmer weather approaches. I'm usually not able to wait until it's truly local to buy my asparagus, but I do wait until it's coming from my country (or at least my continent), and not another hemisphere.

Here are two recipes that spotlight asparagus. One's simple (four ingredients!); the other one has many elements. One's hot; one's cold. Both are devourable. The egg dish can be eaten morning, noon, or night; the salad is for lunch or dinner. You could potentially eat asparagus all day! A bonus for me as a mom is that it's perfect finger food. The spears are like swords (contrary to popular belief, playing with food has an upside: it's fun to eat your toys) and ideal for dipping.

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Fried Eggs and Asparagus with Parmesan, from Epicurious
(makes 2 main-course servings)

The original recipe calls for two 9.5-inch oval oven-proof gratin dishes. If you have these, great! I don't, so instead I've used Pyrex pie dishes, an 8-inch square glass dish and even a glass bread pan. Be creative and use whatever works, as long as it's ovenproof and large enough for the asparagus.


1 1/2 pound medium asparagus, trimmed

2 1/2 tablespoons local unsalted butter, (I used Hope Creamery's)

2/3 cup freshly grated Wisconsin Parmesan cheese (I used Sartori's)

4 large local eggs 


  1. Set rack in upper third of oven; preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Cook asparagus in a large deep skillet of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer with tongs to paper or kitchen towels to drain.
  3. Generously butter baking dish(es) using 1/2 tablespoon butter total, then put asparagus inside. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with half of cheese.
  4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then fry eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper, until whites are barely set, about 2 minutes.
  5. Carefully transfer eggs to baking dish(es) with a slotted spatula, placing on top of asparagus. Sprinkle eggs with remaining cheese and drizzle with any butter remaining in skillet.
  6. Bake in upper third of oven until cheese is melted and eggs are cooked as desired, about 4 to 5 minutes for runny yolks, or 7 to 8 minutes for solidly cooked yolks if you're concerned about salmonella.

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This second recipe was inspired by a former co-worker's favorite salad from the former downtown Minneapolis Dayton's. I'm glad I stood behind her in line one day, because it became my favorite, too.

Caesar Salad with Asparagus
(serves 4)

For the Garlic-Parmesan croutons:

1/2 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, about 2 cups (I used Rustica's)

6 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup grated Wisconsin Parmesan cheese

For the salad:

 8 cups cleaned and dry romaine lettuce or stemmed spinach leaves

1/4 cup grated Wisconsin Parmesan cheese

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed and trimmed

1 pint cherry tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup Kalamata olives

1/2 cup cubed milk or buffalo mozzarella

Deconstructed Caesar Salad with Asparagus, for the kidsDeconstructed Caesar Salad with Asparagus, for the kidsFor the Caesar dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (preferably non-vegan)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 crushed garlic cloves, reserved from croutons, minced or pressed

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

fresh ground pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine garlic cloves and butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted and bubbling but not brown. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Strain butter, reserving garlic.
  2. Toss bread cubes and butter together. Place cubes on pan and bake about 15 minutes, or until browned. Stir two or three times while baking. Remove from oven, place croutons in a bowl, and toss with 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Cook asparagus in a large deep skillet of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer with tongs to paper or kitchen towels to drain.
  4. Whisk all dressing ingredients in small bowl. Dressing will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.
  5. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, place greens, sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, then pour dressing to taste over, gently lifting and tossing with salad utensils or your hands. Divide dressed greens among plates, and top with asparagus, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and croutons. You can also add all those ingredients to the big bowl and dress them together. For an even more substantial salad, you can add grilled chicken or beef.

Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple, Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for us was "Cookus Interruptus: Simple Cooking for Busy Lives."