Yes to Asparagus!

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Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 12:25 pm | Updated: 5:02 pm, Mon Aug 19, 2013.

Asparagus is one of my favorite springtime vegetables, not just for taste but for versatility. There’s so much you can do with it: Roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper and top it with lemony homemade hollandaise and a fried egg, use it as filling for ravioli or make it part of a delicious green salad, to name just a few things.

You’re probably used to seeing green asparagus, and for good reason: It’s the most common. But asparagus also comes in white and purple varieties, which you can find at farmer’s markets during the season and also specialty gourmet shops. When shopping for any kind of asparagus, though, look for bright color, compact tips and thick, upright stems. And when it comes to storing it, it’s best to eat it right away—but asparagus can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days; just place the stalks upright in a glass of water (like you would flowers in a vase) and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.

When you’re ready to actually eat your asparagus, you’ll be lucky to know that prep is generally quick. If you want to discard tough stems, just grab the middle of the spear and snap off the end; you’ll be left with just the tender stalk and tip. And if you’re cooking with white asparagus, the outer layer should always be peeled.

Below is one of my favorite ways to use asparagus—in an elegant soup. But please do share your favorite ways to prepare this delicious vegetable, too!

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Caviar, Crab and Avocado

3 Tbsp. butter

2 small leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thickly sliced (about 3 cups)

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed, spears coarsely chopped

4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

3 cups chopped spinach leaves (about 3 1/2 ounces)

6 tablespoons flaked fresh crabmeat

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallot

3/4 cup diced peeled pitted avocado

6 teaspoons good-quality black caviar (such as osetra)

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until asparagus is tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach, cover and simmer until wilted, about 4 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Transfer soup to large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool, then cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Mix crabmeat, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and shallot in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix avocado and remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice in another small bowl; mash coarsely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place tomato can or biscuit cutter in center of 1 soup bowl. Spoon in 1 tablespoon avocado mixture; smooth top. Spoon in 1 tablespoon crab mixture; press lightly to compact. Spoon in 1 tablespoon avocado mixture. Top with 1 teaspoon caviar. Carefully lift off can. Repeat in remaining soup bowls with remaining timbale ingredients. Ladle soup around each timbale. Serve immediately.

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