Jul 14, 2018

Fresh Asparagus From Moloka'i, Hawaii

Asparagus grows really well here in Hawaii, especially on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Hawaiian asparagus farmers harvest nearly any time of the year with proper timing and forethought. As a matter of fact, there was a time (between 1937 and 1939) when asparagus was exported from Hawaii to Mainland markets.

A friend and local farmer, Chris Hammond, started a large crop of asparagus here on Moloka'i. A few years later, plus a lot of hard work, he is selling his crop at the Moloka'i Saturday Farmers Market. People here have discovered him and his fresh green and purple asparagus. He usually sells out everything in his large cooler within a couple of hours. Naturally I am one of his loyal customers. There's a big difference between store bought and fresh local asparagus.

As a green vegetable, asparagus is actually quite high in protein (3 grams in 1 cup of raw asparagus). It has quite a few vitamins and minerals and is very low in fat. Of course, if you add a lot of high-fat sauces or use butter as a dip, an asparagus side dish may not be a diet dish. But eaten steamed with a little vinegar or lemon juice sprinkled on, it makes a tasty, low-fat, nutritious addition to any meal.

Here are a few asparagus recipes for you to try:

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Phyllo Asparagus Blankets
Simply wrap cooked asparagus in a blanket of phyllo dough and bake. Very tasty, and they make a wonderful presentation.
Sheets of thin Phyllo Dough from Friendly Market
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8 asparagus spears
8 phyllo dough sheets, thawed
   (available at Friendly Market)
1/2 cup butter, melted (or use olive oil)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Special equipment
basting brush
parchment paper
baking sheet

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F. Snap off the tough end of one of the asparagus spears, then cut the rest of the asparagus the same length. Heat a large sauté pan filled with 1/2 inch of water to boiling. Add a generous pinch of salt. Boil for a couple of minutes until the asparagus is almost tender but not cooked all the way. Drain and pat dry. Cool.

Unwrap the phyllo and cut the stack in half if the sheets are big. What you want is for one side of the phyllo sheet to be the same length as the asparagus spears.

Take 1 sheet of phyllo and brush lightly with some melted butter (or olive oil). Sprinkle lightly with grated Parmesan cheese, a tiny bit of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Fold the buttered sheet of phyllo corner to corner in half making a triangle. Place one asparagus spear on the straight edge across from the point. The dough should be the same length as the asparagus. Simply roll the asparagus up towards the point of the phyllo dough. It sort of shows you the distinct layers of the phyllo dough.

Place each piece, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter (or olive oil). Repeat until all the asparagus spears are used up. Place the phyllo wrapped asparagus spears on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Do check on them, as you don't want them to burn. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan cheese when they come out of the oven.

Makes 2 servings.

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Sesame Asparagus with Bean Thread Noodles
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1 1/2 inch pieces
4 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
a few drops chili oil (to taste)
3 2-ounce packages of bean thread noodles (rice noodles, I use Mum's brand)
3 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch (quickly cook) the asparagus until just tender (it should still have a snap), about 90 seconds. Remove asparagus with slotted spoon and quickly plunge them into a large bowl of ice water. Let cool for a few minutes, then drain and transfer onto paper towels to dry. Using the water you used to cook the asparagus, bring back to a boil then add bean thread noodles. Cook for 2 minutes (do not overcook). Drain noodles, then chop into 2" chunks and set aside.

In medium-sized bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, and chili oil. Add asparagus and gently toss to coat. Divide noodles among 8 small bowls. Place coated asparagus on top of noodles. Pour sauce from asparagus bowl on top of each serving. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 8 appetizer servings.

Salmon with Roasted Asparagus 
and Lemon-Caper Sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2-pound skinless salmon fillet (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk first 6 sauce ingredients in small bowl to blend, set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Cut three 1/2-inch-deep slits crosswise in top of salmon (as if dividing into 4 equal pieces but do not cut through).

Arrange asparagus in even layer on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and turn to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place salmon atop asparagus; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until salmon is just opaque in center, about 20 minutes.

Transfer asparagus and salmon to platter. Spoon sauce over salmon. Cut into 4 pieces along slits and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Asparagus-Hominy Stew with Chicken
This is a very simple meal made with fresh asparagus, gold hominy, and leftover chicken.

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1 pound fresh asparagus
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chicken flavored bouillon
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pieces of pre-cooked leftover chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 15 ounce can Gold Hominy, drained
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Wash asparagus and trim the tough ends. Cut stalks into 1-inch pieces, leaving about 3-inch of the top, set tops aside.

In a wok, add water, soy sauce, bouillon, sesame oil, and garlic. Now add the chicken pieces, and drained gold hominy, Bring to a simmer and then add the cut asparagus stalks. Simmer for about 5 minutes, not covered.

Put the corn starch in a small ramekin with 2 tablespoons of water, stirring to combine. Add this thickening mixture to the sauce in the wok and gently stir to combine.

Now add the tender asparagus tops and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes more. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. Serve and garnish the top of each serving with toasted sesame seeds.

Makes 2 large servings.

Note: If you don't have any leftover chicken, then cook some uncooked seasoned chicken in the wok with a little canola oil, then remove bones and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

It's important not to overcook the asparagus, nobody likes soggy asparagus. It should be slightly crisp.

To toast the sesame seeds, put them in a dry frypan over medium heat and toast them making sure not to burn them. It only takes a couple of minutes and the seeds have a lot more flavor. 

Asparagus Fries with Roasted Pepper-Chive 
Aioli Dipping Sauce
A great alternative to regular French fries, crispy and good for you.

1 pound of fresh asparagus, rinsed, woody ends trimmed
1/2 cup of flour
3/4 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten

Ingredients for Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli Dipping Sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup canned roasted red bell peppers drained and minced 
    (or broil a fresh red bell pepper until black then remove skin, seeds, then mince)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Prepare the dipping sauce in advance, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, set aside.

Combine the flour, Panko, Parmesan cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Place a casserole dish, long enough to fit the asparagus, in front of you on the kitchen counter. Add the beaten eggs to the dish.

Now put all of the fresh asparagus spears in with the beaten egg and turn to coat each with the egg.

Now sprinkle the Panko mixture over the egg coated asparagus, turning to coat evenly.

Place coated asparagus spears in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Place in heated oven and cook until asparagus is tender and crispy. Turn the asparagus once as it cooks to ensure browning on all sides. This should take about 8 to 12 minutes. 

Divide dipping sauce into 4 ramekins and serve with the asparagus fries.

Note: Asparagus is best served immediately after removing from oven. 

Makes 4 servings.

Bacon Lovers Asparagus-egg Salad
with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Ingredients for salad:
4 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 pound fresh asparagus
4 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
4 tablespoons of capers
12 lettuce cups (use the outer leaves of leaf lettuce, or butter lettuce as a container for the salad)

Ingredients for honey mustard vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/8 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Cover eggs with cold water in a small pot. Bring to a gentle boil. When you reach a boil, turn off heat and cover pot for 15 minutes. Remove eggs and run under cold water to stop cooking. Gently crack and peel the eggs under a trickle of running water. Set peeled eggs aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the salads.

Steam asparagus in a wok, with a steamer rack, for 5 for 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. You want the asparagus to be tender yet firm, not mushy. Drain and run under cold water to stop it from cooking further. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Cook bacon until crisp, then crumble the bacon and set aside.

In a small bowl mix dressing ingredients. Taste the dressing in case you want to add more honey, mustard, or salt to your taste.

Put one cold lettuce cups on each of 4 plates. Cut cold asparagus into bite-sized pieces and arrange in each lettuce cup. Top asparagus with sliced egg, crumbled bacon, capers and drizzle each salad with 2 tablespoons of honey mustard vinaigrette.

Makes 4 servings.

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