Welcome in spring with fresh asparagus

Hardly anything compares in delectability to the first, crisp green spears of asparagus. For many, a plate of asparagus, cooked simply and adorned only with lemon butter and a crackling of fresh pepper, is a celebration of spring.

There are many methods of cooking asparagus. The easiest is to snap off the tough ends, which is usually no more than the bottom two inches. Place the spears in a large skillet in boiling water and cook 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. If the asparagus is going to be served cold in a vinaigrette or salad, undercook slightly. Drain well.

Another method of cooking the spears is to prop them upright, tied in bundles of 6 in an old-fashioned enameled coffee pot. Add enough water to come up about 1 inch in the pot. Simmer 7 to 10 minutes. Drain well.

Aspargus combines well with many foods, as you will discover in this pasta dish. Asparagus and Pasta 1 pound fettuccine 1 clove garlic, crushed 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups asparagus, cut in 1 1/4-inch lengths and cooked until crisp 1/2 cup light cream 1/2 cup milk 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil Freshly ground pepper

Cook fettuccine in large quantity of boiling salted water just until al dente. Drain well. In large saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic, parsley, and basil in olive oil. Add asparagus. Add drained fettuccine and and toss carefully so that asparagus is not crushed.

Pile onto large serving platter. In same saucepan, heat cream and milk just to boiling point, add cheese, stir lightly and pour over pasta. Cover with freshly grated pepper, a little fresh chopped parsley, and a dash of extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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