Late last week, I had the opportunity to visit an asparagus farm, to see how asparagus is grown, harvested and prepared for market. Did you know that Ontario grows most of Canada’s fresh asparagus? Fresh Ontario asparagus is also the first local vegetable of the year for those of us here in Ontario, so that makes it even more special.
Butter Braised Peas, Leeks and Asparagus is a delicious way to enjoy Spring asparagus. The asparagus is combined with peas and leeks and cooked in a butter, garlic and tarragon sauce. I served it with grilled salmon fillets, for a delicious and quick meal.
Over 90% of Ontario’s asparagus crop is a variety called Guelph Millennium, developed at the University of Guelph. It is adapted to colder climates and produces higher yields than other varieties. That means there’s always a plentiful crop of fresh and local asparagus available each Spring. I’m thankful for that! Even so, local Ontario asparagus is only available for a couple of months, so be sure to pick up and enjoy fresh Ontario asparagus now!
You can learn more about Ontario Asparagus and the Ontario Asparagus Farmers of Ontario on asparagus.on.ca.
Here are some photos from my day at the farm. You’ll have to look closely at the photo in the top left to spy the asparagus. Yes, asparagus fields are startlingly sparse! And if you snap an asparagus spear off in the field and eat it, it tastes surprisingly like peas.
Before I left the farm, I had to pick up some (really) fresh asparagus from the market at Barrie Hill Farms. I also spotted some wild leeks (ramps), so I brought those home as well. That was the inspiration for this dish. If you are not able to find wild leeks, regular leeks will work in this dish, as well.
- 1 bunch asparagus, bottom 3-4 inches trimmed off
- Fresh or frozen large peas
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter
- 1 leek (or a bunch of wild leeks/ramps)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. dried tarragon leaves (or dried thyme leaves, if you don't like tarragon)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- Splash of white wine, if you like
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 fillets of salmon, cooked as you like (grilled, pan-fried or roasted in the oven)
- If using regular leeks, prepare leeks by taking a 3-inch slice of the white part of the leek. Cut in half lengthwise, then slice into thin slices, to total about 1/3 cup. Rinse well and set aside. Roughly chop a bit of the top green from the leek and set aside. If using wild leeks, cut thin slices from the white bulb end to total 1/3 cup. Roughly chop the top leaves and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt 1/4 up butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add white part of leeks and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add asparagus and peas, tarragon and chicken stock. Reduce heat to low, cover pan (with lid or if your pan doesn't have a lid, place a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil overtop) and simmer for 6-7 minutes. Remove lid. Add lemon juice and a splash of wine, if using. Scatter chopped leek leaves overtop and stir in. Season well with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until asparagus and peas are just tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Meanwhile, cook salmon in a grill, in a grill pan on the stove-top or roast for 12-15 minutes in a 400F. oven.
- Remove to a serving dish. Top with grilled, roasted or pan-fried salmon.
I didn’t include cooking instructions for the salmon. I grilled mine quickly on the BBQ. You could also use a grill pan on the stove-top or place in a baking pan and cook in a 400F. oven for 12-15 minutes.
Obviously, you can just make the braised greens as a side or main dish for any meal or substitute any meat, poultry or seafood.
If you don’t like tarragon, you can substitute dried thyme leaves.
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