Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

14 05 2011

Ontario asparagus at the St. Lawrence farmers' market, Toronto, May 14th, 2011

Spring may have officially started back in March but today marks the ‘real’ beginning of spring for me: at long last, the first local asparagus is at the market!  I’ve been waiting patiently for asparagus season to begin and was not disappointed at the St. Lawrence farmers’ market this morning. I also found local fiddleheads, wild leeks and rhubarb so things are starting to get interesting in the kitchen.

Why not make a delicious and simple Asian-inspired noodle dish to showcase new asparagus? Sesame oil can be found at most supermarkets with the soy sauces. It adds a delicious nutty flavour to dishes and complements the asparagus and mushrooms beautifully (although a little goes a long way so be sure to use a light hand with it!).

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Makes 4 to 6 main course servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 lb. (500 g) dry long noodles such as spaghetti or linguine
  • 12 oz. (340 g) asparagus, cut into 1-1/2” pieces – will equal about 2-1/2 cups
  • 4 oz. (113 g) shiitake or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced 1/2” thick – will equal about 2 cups
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Chopped green onion tops for garnish

Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • ¼ cup neutral oil, such as safflower
  • 4 large green onions, white and light green parts only
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  1. To make the sauce: In a bowl or large measuring cup, add all sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Set sauce aside until ready to use.
  2. Prepare noodles according to package directions (spaghetti and linguine are usually cooked for about 9 to 11 minutes in salted boiling water).
  3. While the noodles are cooking, stir fry the vegetables. Heat two tablespoons of neutral oil in a large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and mushrooms. Stir-fry until the mushrooms have softened and the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 6 minutes.
  4. Drain the noodles and add to the skillet with the vegetables. Pour sauce over the mixture and use a large spoon and fork to toss the mixture until vegetables are evenly distributed and the noodles are coated with sauce.
  5. Garnish the noodles with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions before serving.
Additional Ideas: You can make the dish more substantial by adding cooked meat (sliced grilled steak or chicken would be delicious, as would Chinese bbq pork). You can also add other vegetables such as snow peas, diced red pepper, steamed broccoli or sliced zucchini.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication. This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Asparagus 101

16 05 2010

It’s no secret that I love, love, love asparagus.  Each spring, I anxiously await the arrival of local asparagus in the markets and then spend the next six weeks or so thinking up new ways to enjoy it.  Luckily, asparagus is low in calories and packed with vitamins so there’s no reason not to indulge!

Local asparagus in season has a sweetness and vibrant flavour that isn’t found in imported spears that have travelled hundreds of miles.  If you don’t believe me, do a blind taste test with imported asparagus vs. local – I guarantee you will be able to tell the difference.  The best way to enjoy asparagus at its peak is simply cooked and dressed with just a bit of butter or olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  A squeeze of fresh lemon is also delicious.

How to Prepare Asparagus for Cooking

Asparagus doesn’t require much prep work to get it ready.  Wash the spears and dry them thoroughly.  The woody ends are tough so it’s best to remove them.  If you hold an asparagus spear and bend it, it will naturally break where the tough part ends. However, I usually just trim the ends – cut where the ends turn from woody and pale to green and vibrant, usually an inch or two from the bottom.  The spears can be peeled if the skin is tough and stringy, which sometimes happens with thicker spears. However, I usually don’t bother.

How to Cook Asparagus

Asparagus cooks quickly so it’s a great way to add a vegetable to the dinner menu. It’s also very versatile so it can be used in soups, lasagnas, pastas, tarts, quiches or stir fries.  There are a number of ways it can be cooked:

Roasted: Toss asparagus with a bit of oil and roast in an even layer on a baking sheet at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes.

Steamed: Steam spears in a steamer basket or small amount of water until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Grilled: Prepare a hot grill and brush asparagus with a small amount of oil.  Grill for about 2 to 3 minutes per side (you might want to use a grill pan, to keep the spears from falling through the grate).

Stir-Fried: Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet on high heat.  Add asparagus and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add a tablespoon of water or broth and cook until just tender, about 3 to 4 more minutes.

Asparagus Recipes

For more great asparagus recipe ideas, check out some of my archived recipes (including a couple of new ones!):

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms





Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

10 05 2010

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna is a delicious way to enjoy the seasonal delicacy

Asparagus is finally in season and I couldn’t be happier.  I absolutely love asparagus and for the few short weeks it’s at its peak I go a bit nuts and eat it almost every day.  Perhaps it’s my imagination but this year’s crop seems to be especially delicious, possibly because of the unusually mild and dry spring we’ve had in Southern Ontario.  Last night I sautéed some in olive oil and added a splash of water to steam them until tender-crisp.  Sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, the fat spears were sweet and delicious.  I look forward to enjoying more over the next few weeks.

While a simple preparation is a great way to show off top notch ingredients, occasionally something fancier is in order.  A decadent roasted asparagus lasagna fits the bill perfectly: roasted asparagus bathed in a luxurious cheese sauce and baked until bubbling will tempt even die hard carnivores.  Serve with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness.

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Serves 6 to 8

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk (do not use skim)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 or 4 large fresh lasagna noodles or parboiled regular lasagna noodles
  • 1 packed cup grated mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • ¾ cup grated asiago cheese (about 3 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim woody ends from asparagus and discard. Cut asparagus spears into 2” lengths. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread asparagus pieces on a baking sheet in one layer. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, until spears are just beginning to soften. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
  4. While asparagus is roasting, prepare sauce. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium heat until fully melted and beginning to bubble slightly. Add flour and whisk briskly until incorporated into butter.
  5. Cook butter and flour mixture for about 2 minutes. Add one cup of the milk, whisking constantly. As the mixture begins to thicken slightly (about 2 minutes), add the second cup of milk and repeat the process for the third cup. Continue to stir sauce so it doesn’t burn or turn lumpy.
  6. Add nutmeg, parmesan cheese and garlic to the sauce. Stir thoroughly until cheese is melted. Season with salt to taste. Remove sauce from the heat.
  7. In a dish approximately 9” X 12” X 3”, spread 1/3 of the roasted asparagus spears evenly on the bottom. Drizzle 1/3 of the sauce over asparagus. Top with a layer of fresh lasagna noodles, cut to fit the pan.
  8. Repeat the layers: asparagus, sauce and noodles, asparagus, sauce. Make sure the final layer is sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella, asiago and parmesan cheeses.
  9. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
  10. To serve: let the lasagna cool for about 20 minutes. Use a very sharp knife to slice through the asparagus. Accompany with a salad and crusty bread.

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!