This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Loblaws Companies Inc.. All opinions are 100% mine.
After the long, boring stretch of root vegetables and storage apples that is winter produce in Ontario, it’s always a lovely day when I step into the grocery store and spot the first display of local asparagus. It’s the surest sign that summer’s bounty isn’t far behind.
The tall green stalks might just be one of my favourite local seasonal vegetables. Left to my own devices, I could happily eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner until the season is over without ever getting bored. (And, thankfully, asparagus is versatile enough that I could probably get away with three meals a day, too!)
I guess the folks at Loblaws are equally obsessed with asparagus, because they’ve picked them as June’s featured Share the Food Love ingredient.
When buying asparagus, look for smooth, bright green, unblemished stalks and tight tips. Avoid any stalks that look too dry or split on the bottoms, or wrinkled stems… they’re already well past their prime.
If you’re not going to use them right away, fill a jar with an inch of cold water and place the bunch of asparagus in the jar with the cut ends down, and then store in the refrigerator. (I find it usually helps to keep the elastic band around the asparagus to hold them together in a nice tight bundle.) They won’t keep for very long, though, so try to use them within a few days.
When you’re ready to cook them, give the asparagus a quick rinse and then snap or cut off the woody ends at the bottom of the stalks. Some people say that fatter stalks should also be peeled because the outer skin gets a little tough, but personally I’ve never had a problem with it, so I just skip it… when you’re paying by the pound, there’s no point in throwing out perfectly delicious asparagus if you don’t have to!
Asparagus, in my opinion, lends itself best to simple preparations. Most of the time, I just steam for 3-5 minutes until the stalks are bright green and tender-crisp, or toss with a little olive oil and then cook on a blazing hot grill for a minute or two, just enough to get some nice grill marks on the stems and lightly char the edges of the tips. A dash of salt and pepper and a quick squeeze of lemon or a splash of balsamic is all it takes to finish things off.
If you really must gild the lily, though, I highly recommend this quickie pasta dish.
It might seem really fancy, thanks to its combination of pillowy gnocchi, crispy-salty prosciutto and tender spring veggies, but it literally takes less than half an hour from start to finish. It’s about as easy as dinner gets, short of ordering take-out.
Gnocchi in brown butter sauce is traditionally served as a rich, belly-filling dish meant to offset impending winter cold, but this version is the opposite of that, because it’s almost summer and bikini season will be here before you know it.
There’s just enough gnocchi and butter to make it feel luxurious, but I’ve flipped the ratio around so that the focus is firmly planted on the lively spring duo of asparagus and sweet peas. A final dash of lemon juice cuts the richness of the butter and prosciutto.
It’s the perfect way to celebrate the oh-so-brief Ontario asparagus season, which will be over before you know it. So get to your local Loblaws while the getting is good!
Share the Love Contest:
To sweeten the deal, you might just win your next grocery shop at Loblaws (estimated value $250). To enter, follow @LoblawsON on Instagram, then share a photo of your favourite asparagus recipes with the hashtags #WeLoveFood and #ShareTheFoodLove. (Pro tip: Don’t forget to make sure your account is set to public so that the team at Loblaws can see it!)
- 1 package (1lb / 500g) gnocchi
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 100g prosciutto, cut into thin strips
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, finely mined
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1” lengths
- 1 cup sweet peas, fresh or frozen
- ¼ cup salted butter
- 10-12 fresh sage leaves
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Lots of black pepper
- Grated Parmesan, to garnish
- Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water as per package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While the gnocchi is cooking, fry up the prosciutto in olive oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat until it starts to crisp up, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small plate lined with paper towel and set aside, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
- Add the green onion and garlic to the pan, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the asparagus and peas, and saute until bright green and starting to get tender, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe the skillet clean using a paper towel. Add the butter and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s foamy and a nutty golden-brown colour, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat immediately, and stir in the fresh sage.
- Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat evenly with butter. Stir in the crispy prosciutto and the cooked vegetables, and sprinkle with lemon juice and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Toss until everything is evenly coated. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan for garnish.