Asparagus spears are about as perfect as a vegetable can get: hearty, flavorful, versatile. They can be used in just about any dish, from salads to stir-fries, though most notably they can be a dish all by themselves. Asparagus can be roasted, grilled and even microwaved and still be a valuable addition to any meal. It's no wonder there's a whole month devoted to the perennial crop. As May is National Asparagus Month, we've pulled together a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this healthy vegetable.

Roasted Asparagus

  1. Set your oven to bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut or snap the bottom couple of inches off a bundle of fresh asparagus. Rinse and dry.
  3. Arrange on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Using a spatula, turn over the spears and bake for another 5 minutes.

Alternatives: Experiment with sprinkling different flavors over the spears, such as rosemary before going into the oven or lemon when they come out.

Shepherd's Pie

This is a good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes as well as extra vegetables or meat in the refrigerator. If you don't have ground beef, use chicken. No asparagus? Use peas, broccoli or a combination of vegetables.

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef
2 large carrots, chopped in small pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bundle asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cups mashed potatoes

Preparation

  1. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a large skillet set on medium. Add the chopped carrots. Toss and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped onions and garlic, stir, then cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is brown.
  4. Add the chopped asparagus. Stir into the beef and vegetables.
  5. Sprinkle mixture with 2 tablespoons flour. Stir and cook for a minute, then add broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes until the broth starts to thicken.
  6. Turn the broiler on high.
  7. Add mixture to a pie or casserole pan. Or skip this step if you're using a cast iron or similar heavy skillet that can go under the broiler.
  8. Top with prepared mashed potatoes, spreading to cover the top of the pan.
  9. Place pan a few inches under the broiler for about 7 minutes, or until potatoes start to brown.

Lemony Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus

Adapted from Gourmet magazine recipe.

Ingredients

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 bundle asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preparation

  1. Bring the broth and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add asparagus and cook uncovered for about 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon to some paper towels. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.
  2. Cook the chopped onion in 2 tablespoons butter sprinkled with kosher salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture. Keep at a brisk simmer and stir frequently until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir frequently and let each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is creamy and tender, about 18-20 minutes. There may be leftover broth mixture.
  5. Stir in shrimp and cook until just pink and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in asparagus, lemon zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan and sprinkle with fresh-cracked pepper. If the risotto is too thick, add some of the remaining broth.

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