Asparagus, asparagus . . . How do I love thee!
Now don’t laugh, I remember one time reading this ode to asparagus. Yes, it’s springtime time in Kansas City and that means one thing to this chef: local asparagus.
Last week, I was honored to visit my friend’s Julie and Bob Zoller at their farm in Paola, Kan., for U-Pick Asparagus.
Now I’m not just talking farm asparagus — I’m talking Fire Lake Camp.
Fire Lake Camp is more than a farm. It’s a sanctuary, a gathering place to share life’s adventures. A place to enjoy a rehearsal dinner, a family gathering, a wedding, a summer picnic or a farm-to-table dinner.
The list is endless and so is the asparagus in the field.
I was fortunate to sit down with Julie and my co-host of “LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen,” Kimberly Stern, and “Talk Asparagus.”
Julie told me that asparagus shoots are the first vegetable to pop out of the ground in spring and for a month or two, the fields need to be harvested frequently to pick the newly emerging shoots as soon as they appear.
The dates for spring harvest vary. In a normal spring season, we start our picking on April 15. I think that is the only good thing about Tax Day in America.
The harvest period for Fire Lake Camp’s patch will usually lasts 60 days and this year those little green sweethearts did not push up out of the ground until the end of April.
Did I tell you about the asparagus tart that Julie brought Kim and me in the studio? Her friend and local catering Chef Mary Berg made individual tarts so delicious that I could not just eat one. I really loved the addition of local eggs and chives from the garden.
If you plan on visiting Fire Lake Camp, Julie provides baskets and the only real instruction to picking: Snap only, do not pull the asparagus and do not cut. Just a gentle snap.
Freshly harvested asparagus spears are like fresh cut flowers. They deteriorate more slowly when their cut ends are put in water. I suggest you eat a few when walking the fields. So crisp and tender, this just spells spring.
Julie claims fresh harvested asparagus can be kept for moderately lengthy periods — weeks or even months at very cool, almost freezing temperatures. It also freezes well.
Seriously? My harvest from Fire Lake Camp didn’t last a day.
Perhaps that’s because I use it in everything from Asparagus Lobster Bisque, panzanella salad, risotto, pasta, chicken, pork . . . .
I still haven’t found a dessert yet, but I’m thinking a ricotta torta with asparagus gelato.
Yes, I said, “Asparagus gelato.”
Stay tuned and oh yes, stay hungry my friends.
For more information, visitFire Lake Camp’s web site
. Call ahead before driving out to pick the asparagus.Spring Asparagus Soup Extra virgin olive oil 1 cup minced green onion 1 leek, cleaned, rinsed and finely chopped 1/2 cup minced carrot 3 pounds fresh asparagus 2 cups Half Half 3 cups chicken broth Tarragon, sea salt and cracked pepper to taste Crispy bacon and whipped cream for garnish
To prepare the soup: Clean asparagus and cut off ends. Blanch asparagus in hot boiling water for 5 minutes.
Saute leeks, carrots and green onions in olive oil. Add blanched asparagus and cook until tender. Add half half, broth and seasoning. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Puree all in a blender. Serve either hot or chilled in Cappuccino cups. Top with whipped cream and crispy bacon bits.
Chef Jasper Mirabile of Jasper’s, a family-owned restaurant, is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM.