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Slice of Life

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Asparagus dishes reflect spring

Available, affordable (for now) and incredibly versatile asparagus is often considered the quintessential spring vegetable. With spring just beginning, now seems like a great time to indulge. Serve it hot or cold depending on your mood; it takes only about 10 minutes to wash, cook and eat it.

While most asparagus is green, the purple and white varieties are becoming popular. Although more tender than the green variety, in my opinion, white asparagus has a somewhat bland flavor. It is also more expensive than the green variety.

When choosing asparagus, look for thin, medium-sized spears that are firm and green (except for the white asparagus) with tightly closed tips. Avoid asparagus with wrinkled stalks and wilted tips.

When you store your asparagus, wrap the bottom of the stalks in a damp paper towel and put everything it a plastic bag. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

As an alternative, trim the bottom of the spears and stand them, covered, in a glass container with an inch of water in the refrigerator for a few days.

EZ Asparagus Parmesan Quiche

1 ready-made pie crust

1 cup half-and-half or cream

2 eggs

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1 pound asparagus, each spear trimmed to 3 inches, steamed crisp and cooled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the pie crust until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the half-and-half, eggs, cheese, tarragon and salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus in spoke in crust, tips toward edge and ends meeting in center. Pour the egg mixture gently over the asparagus and return the filled crust to the oven. Bake until the quiche puffs and the top browns, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly to set and serve. Serves 4.

Asparagus Avocado Wraps

1 ripe avocado, pitted and sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons parsley

1 1/2 cups cooked white rice, cooled

3 tablespoons plain yogurt or mayonnaise

3 whole wheat tortillas, 10 inches in diameter

24 spears asparagus, steamed crisp then cooled

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

In a small bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, parsley and garlic. Mash to combine into a coarse puree. Set the mixture aside. In another small bowl, combine the rice and yogurt and mix well.

Heat the tortillas for 10 seconds in the microwave to soften them. Lay the tortillas flat on a cutting board. Spread the avocado mixture equally among the tortillas. Top each tortilla with an equal amount of the rice mixture, asparagus, cilantro and onion. Fold in both sides and the bottom of each tortilla up over the filling; then roll to close.

If made in advance, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Return to room temperature before serving. To serve, cut each wrap in half crosswise. Makes 6 servings.

Asparagus Marinara with Fettuccini

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 pound asparagus; cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup white wine

2 to 4 teaspoons sugar, to taste

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Fettuccine; or other pasta, cooked, drained

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil for 2 minutes and then add the garlic and onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat and then add the crushed tomatoes and basil. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the cut asparagus. Simmer the asparagus in the sauce until tender. Cook 3 to 4 more minutes and then add the white wine and sugar, along with salt and pepper. Serve over hot pasta. Serves 4.

– Submitted by Arnie Marstein of Chicago; recipe modified Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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