Spare Me

Wendy Jo Peterson

by ALISON F. JOHNSON   photography by  ROBERTO WESTBROOK

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it could help prevent bee stings and ease ailments. In modern times, it often lands on top-10 lists of aphrodisiac foods. So why do so many people avoid asparagus, even at its peak in late spring and early summer?

One reason: Cooking it too long, especially if the stalks are already limp, results in a mushy mess.

“That’s the only way a lot of people have had it, and it’s disgusting,” says Wendy Jo Peterson, a registered dietitian, culinary nutritionist and author. “They need to try it al dente, with that great crunch.”

At the grocery store, don’t concentrate on color (asparagus can be green, purple or white) but look for firm stalks with bottoms that don’t appear dried out or ashy, says Peterson, who is based in San Diego and has a residence in Virginia Beach. At home, trim the bottoms and place them in an inch of water, then cover the spears with a plastic bag.

And rather than boiling, blanch: Cook asparagus in boiling water for about two minutes, followed by a 30-second soak in ice water. Or wrap baby stalks in prosciutto or bacon and bake for 10 or 15 minutes at

400 degrees (often a picky-kid favorite).

Growing asparagus takes patience, as seeds or year-old crowns planted in early spring likely won’t be ready for two or three years. The reward is a hardy perennial that can tolerate cold and dry spells and produce for 15-plus years, especially in plots with full sun and good drainage, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

So shoot, asparagus haters – give it another chance?

Asparagus, prosciutto, quiche, potatoes, recipe, hrva, hampton roads, distinction magazine, distinctionhr, virginia, magazine, delicious

POTATO-CRUSTED ASPARAGUS AND PROSCIUTTO QUICHE
by Wendy Jo Peterson

 Makes: 8 wedges.

Note: Grate the potatoes into cold water to keep them from browning, or use grated potatoes from the refrigerator/freezer section of the grocery. We made our quiche with a 10-inch springform pan, 9 eggs,   1/3 cup half-and-half, and a 1-pound bag of prepared grated potatoes. Serving suggestion: Mimosas and salad tossed with Champagne vinaigrette.

INGREDIENTS
Potato crust
2 russet potatoes or prepared frozen grated potatoes
¼ red onion
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Quiche filling
6 eggs
¼ cup half-and-half
2 ounces prosciutto, chopped, or more if desired
1½ cups asparagus, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1½ ounces goat cheese, crumbled, or more if desired

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grate potatoes and onion, then squeeze dry on paper towels.

In a bowl, toss potatoes, onion, paprika, and the first portions of salt and pepper.

Rub olive oil across the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and press the potato mixture in and up along the sides.

Bake crust for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, gently whisk eggs and half-and-half for 1 minute. Stir in prosciutto, asparagus, thyme, and the remaining salt and pepper. Pour mixture over potato crust and top with goat cheese. (The crust need not be cool.)

Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake quiche for 35 to 40 minutes or until completely set in the center. (Gently shake the pan to see if the center is set.)