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06/30/2019

~Lovely Lemon-Infused EVOO & Asparagus Recipes~

IMG_1878 2In this part of the Northeast, Asparagus season starts around the beginning of May and lasts approximately to the end of June.  This has been a banner year for it, which is why I could not resist dedicating the past two weeks to sharing a few asparagus recipes prepared my favorite way:  enhanced by the flavor of lemon -- more specifically lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil.  For those of you that don't know, asparagus adores the flavor of lemon, and so will you. 

Choosing, Prepping & Storing Amazing Asparagus

Asparagus begins losing its flavor the moment it's picked, so buy the freshest bunch possible. Prepping asparagus correctly gives it a shelf life of 3-5 days.  Start by removing the woody stalk ends.  Every spear has a woody end too fibrous to eat.  When gently bent, each stalk will snap at a point a few inches from the base, where the spear goes from tough to tender. Once trimmed, gather it up and stand it in a glass containing 1/2" water and store, uncovered, in the refrigerator.

IMG_1895Making Lemon-Infused EVOO in the Home Kitchen

Let me start by saying, I purchase my lemon-infused olive oil.  It's a small investment for a product that, in honesty, because of the process involved, can't be 100% duplicated in the home kitchen. Manufacturers of high-quality lemon-infused olive oil include lemon in with the olives when the oil gets cold pressed.  Home cooks simply do not have that option, so, if you are one of those who is inclined to make it at home, the only alternative is what's known as the "heat-and-soak" process.

IMG_2176Breakfast:  Asparagus & Eggs Fried in Lemon-Infused EVOO

The only thing better than a pair of buttery-rich crispy-edged runny-centered sunny-side-up eggs for breakfast, is a pair of lemon-luscious, crispy-edged runny-centered sunny-side-up eggs for breakfast.  Lightly-seasoned to perfection with a few grinds of sea salt and a nice peppercorn blend, once on my plate, I'm ready to catch my toast the instant it pops up, sit down, and luxuriate in the dipping process until every drop of liquid gold and tender bite of white is gone.  All gone.

IMG_2326Lunch:  Asparagus Salad w/Lemon-Infused White-Balsamic Vinaigrette

A salad without lettuce?  There's no law against it, and, in the case of this salad, lettuce is just in the way.  The combination of tender blanched asparagus, a few halved cherry or grape tomatoes, and, small, creamy, fresh mozzarella balls drizzled with a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette is to-die-for. The only item I do add to it on occasion is: a handful of crunchy croutons.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The dressing, loaded with lemon flavor and herbes de Provence, is the star of this show.

IMG_2107Dinner:  Spaghetti w/Crab, Asparagus, Tomato & Prosciutto

Light, bright and amazingly lemony, this lusciously-decadent, not to mention rich, restaurant-quality pasta dish is easy to prepare -- and it's pitch-perfect Summer fare.  While the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and grape tomatoes roast for ten minutes and cool for five, the pasta gets cooked and seasoned.  Toss the two together with high-quality crab claw meat, and lunch or dinner is served.  No cheese please -- cheese, in any form, in this delicate dish, is all wrong.

IMG_2021Hors D'oeuvre:  Amazingly-Lemony Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

When I was growing up, fresh asparagus was a delicacy.  We ate it steamed, in the Spring, for holidays and special occasions, and, when we reserved a table at a restaurant -- restaurants had more access to it than the average American family during that era. Over the years it became readily available to home cooks who came to realize that roasting elevated the flavor and texture. The addition of prosciutto puts it in the pick-it-up-with-your-fingers-to-eat finger-food category.

IMG_1940Appetizer:  Grilled Shrimp & Asparagus Cocktail w/Creamy Lemon Dip

How much would you pay for this in an upscale restaurant?  About $8.00 as an appetizer? Perhaps $12.00 as a lunch entrée?  Both sound fare to me, but, truth told, this small plate of happiness is so good I'd happily pay more.  'Tis true, rake my shrimp cocktail over some hot coals and I'll follow you anywhere -- and pay a tidy sum for it too.  Add a few slices of grilled bread, uncork a bottle of white wine, and invite a few guests to join you too -- it's that impressive.

IMG_2260Side-Dish: Amazingly-Lemony & Perfectly Shallow-Poached Asparagus

Technically known as shallow poaching and sometimes referred to as skillet poaching, this is the easiest way to cook fresh asparagus spears.  As it turns out, a small amount of gently or barely simmering salted water in a wide-bottomed skillet is a great way to quickly control the heat of the water, which, in turn, makes it very easy to efficiently yield vibrant green asparagus spears of any thickness that are cooked to your liking:  crunch-tender blanched to fully-cooked fork-tender.

IMG_2061"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

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