Spice up your asparagus

Published 9:01 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

Asparagus season is here! Everyone around Michiana and the great lakes gets excited when the asparagus starts to show up in spring. Already in my news feed yesterday were several appetizing asparagus photos. You really don’t have to do a lot to make a great dish out of this local delight, but we can still get sick of it by the end of the season.

Last night, I decided to mix it up and pair the old favorite with one of my recent obsessions, fennel. I’ve been using fennel mostly in salads, but I was excited to use the bulb and the greens to season the dish. I just went really simple and tossed everything together in a Le Cruset roasting dish and 15 minutes later I had a palate pleasing pairing I’d never experienced before.

The fennel really makes the asparagus pop and a little onion and garlic round it out perfectly. I served it with smoked tofu for an impressive and satisfying dinner in minutes. I think this would be a perfect side dish at a dinner party and a great opportunity to show off some culinary creativity.

I tossed in 1 serrano pepper for a little kick and also because I needed to use the pepper before it went bad. I really loved the punch it added, but you could certainly leave it out or substitute with a teaspoon or two of crushed red pepper flakes, or even a milder hot pepper like jalapeno. Remember when using fresh hot peppers that seeding cuts the spice.

Easy Asparagus and Fennel

Yield: 4 small side servings

1 bunch local asparagus

1 fennel bulb and the herbs from 1 stalk

½ a yellow onion, sliced

¾ tablespoon minced garlic

1 serrano pepper, minced

½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

¾ teaspoon sea salt


Cut off the very end of the asparagus stalks, then cut them in half. Slice the fennel bulb, then half the pieces. Using kitchen shears, trim off the fennel herb from one stalk. Save the remaining stalks for another recipe.

Toss all ingredients well and place in either a roasting dish or on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place on top rack of pre-heated oven and roast at 375 for about 12-15 minutes. Be sure to stir once throughout the cooking process.

Serve as a side dish with smoked tofu, BBQ seitan, or tempeh grounds and a potato or grain.

Kat Barry, a St. Joseph, Michigan native, is owner of Kat’s Hot Cakes vegan catering, and co author of “The New Chicago Diner Cookbook: Meat Free Recipes from America’s Veggie Diner.” She also develops recipes for eHow.com, where you can find over 30 of her vegan instructional cooking videos. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Kat currently resides in Chicago, and in her free time she enjoys practicing yoga, sampling local spirits, listening to live music, and getting outdoors. Follow @katshotcakes on twitter. Kat can be reached via email at: kat@katshotcakes.com.