In the Kitchen Featuring: Local Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus Drizzled with a Sweet BalsamicGrilled Asparagus Drizzled with a Sweet Balsamic Reduction

If there is one thing I look forward to in the early spring, it’s the fresh and local sweet asparagus, simply grilled and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Ingredients:

Directions: Add the balsamic to a small sauté or sauce pan. Bring to a light boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half and it has thickened, becoming more syrup-like.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill on both sides until just cooked through (about medium-done) and brown char/grill marks appear, about 2 – 3 minutes on each side.

Remove to a serving dish and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

Asparagus with Caramelized Shallots and Roasted Red Peppers

This asparagus side dish will cook up in minutes. You can also take the prepared asparagus a step further and use it in a stir fry served over rice for another meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBL Sigona’s just-pressed California Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil (it has a nice grassy/buttery flavor)
  • 4 julienned roasted red peppers (from a jar), such as Piquillo Roasted Peppers by Italbrand
  • 1 bunch locally grown asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces, ends discarded

Directions: In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium low. Add shallots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté shallots, tossing occasionally, until the shallots have softened and started to brown slightly (caramelize). Add julienned roasted red peppers and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Incorporate asparagus into the shallot mixture. Work for a minute or two over medium high heat melding all the flavors until asparagus is heated. Serve as a side to a steak or chicken dish.

Local Asparagus with Lemony Farfalle PastaLocal Asparagus with Lemony Farfalle Pasta, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

It’s local asparagus season and we also have in some fantastic new olive oils make a nice match. My new favorite is the Leccino olive oil. It has a bolder, intense flavor that’s still very smooth, pairing beautifully with the pasta. Serves 2-3.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. (1 lb.) Delverde Farfalle pasta
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 TBL pine nuts (toast them for more flavor)
  • 3 – 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon, divided
  • 1 -2 TBL Sigona’s Fresh Press Leccino extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions: To start, cook the pancetta one of two ways: either cook in a skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, or bake in the oven at 475F for 6 minutes, or until crisp.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove the pasta, reserving water. Set drained pasta aside. Add asparagus to the boiling water and cook three minutes. Reserve 2 TBL cooking water then drain. Return both the asparagus and the pasta to the pot over medium low heat. Add minced garlic and reserved water, toss well.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Fold in pine nuts and pancetta then transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with cheese and lemon zest. Serve warm.

Fresh Asparagus Salad with a Sweet Balsamic Reduction

Asparagus goes well with the flavors of Dijon mustard. If you look up vinaigrette for anything with asparagus, you can bet Dijon will be a star ingredient. Asparagus and balsamic also play well together so this is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 2-3 TBL Sigona’s traditional balsamic, 12-year-aged
  • 1/2 TBL Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh basil leaf, julienned
  • 2 TBL Sigona’s Fresh Press Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (bake in a single layer at 350F for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned)

Directions: Boil asparagus for a couple of minutes then immediately submerge into an ice bath. Once cool, remove asparagus and dry with a paper towel. Then cut into thirds, diagonally, and place on a serving platter.

While the asparagus cools, pour balsamic into a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and cook to reduce by half. This can happen quickly, so keep an eye on it. Once reduced, pour it into a small mixing bowl.

To the balsamic add Dijon, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Then, while whisking, add the olive oil to emulsify the mixture.

Drizzle the balsamic mixture over the asparagus, toss to coat, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

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