5 Reasons to love Ontario asparagus

grilled cheese

We love asparagus! Grill it or steam it, here are some great ways to serve up local asparagus from Foodland Ontario. Plus, where else can you buy your next bunch but one of the local farmer’s markets of course!

1. Delicious on the grill: For succulent results, wash asparagus spears, trim and pat dry. Brush with oil and grill, turning often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

2. Brimming with folate: 1 cup (250 mL) of asparagus has 4 grams of fibre, is rich in vitamin C and an amazing source of folate.

3. Silky smooth soups: Simmering puréed asparagus with onion, chicken broth and a little cream creates a delicious soup to serve hot or cold.

4. Perfect pesto: Blending cooked asparagus with walnuts, mint and olive oil makes a heavenly pesto sauce. Try Penne with Asparagus Pesto (recipe below) for a tasty vegetarian dish.

5. Great with grains: Mixing chopped grilled asparagus with quinoa, barley or bulgur and your favourite diced vegetables elevates a side dish from ordinary to elegant.

Penne with Asparagus Pesto

Pesto was first created in Italy as a thick sauce made from basil, but now other herbs and vegetables are often substituted. In this tasty spring side dish asparagus and mint give a nutritious twist. It would also make a great meal for vegetarians.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8
Ingredients:

1 lb (500 g) Ontario Asparagus, trimmed
1 cup (250 mL) mint leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (125 mL) walnut pieces or slivered almonds
1 tbsp (15 mL) each finely grated lemon rind and lemon juice
3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups (1 L) whole wheat or regular penne
1/4 cup (50 mL) grated Ontario Parmesan Cheese

Preparation Instructions:

Remove asparagus tips and set aside.  Cut stalks into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces to make about 2-1/4 cups (550 mL).  Cook stalks in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender-crisp.  Drain and rinse under cold water to cool slightly.  Drain well.

Place asparagus stalks and mint in food processor.  With motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until chopped.  Turn off motor.  Add walnuts, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt and pepper; coarsely chop.  Add oil and broth; process until blended but nuts are still a bit chunky.  (Make ahead:  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Return to room temperature before using.)

Meanwhile, cook penne according to package directions, about 12 minutes; adding asparagus tips for last 2 minutes.  Drain well and return to warm saucepan. Add pesto, tossing well.  Serve in pasta bowls; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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