This recipe came about as a result of asparagus fatigue.
We love asparagus, and local ones are everywhere right now, but there are only so many things to do with them -- roast, blanch, chop up into a salad... And maybe it's a crime to pulverize those pretty, purplish tips, but we did. Why hadn't we ever thought of an asparagus purée before? We love anything that can be whizzed in a food processor, and we're always looking for new dips or spreads that make quick appetizers for a party.
We experimented with a couple of cheeses -- cream cheese and ricotta -- to add body to the mix, but cream cheese overwhelmed the flavor of the asparagus. Ricotta was perfect and paired well with the lemon juice we added. There are also leeks and garlic in there for extra flavor.
As for the prosciutto, we thought of all those asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto we've seen on appetizer trays and figured it was a tried-and-true match-up. We ate these little open faced sandwiches (or tartines, if you will) on buttered ciabatta for dinner, but you could serve smaller portions on baguette rounds.
Asparagus Spread and Prosciutto on Buttered Toast
Makes enough for about 20 small tartines or dozens of bite-sized appetizers
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 large leek (white and light green part only)
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 pound prosciutto
1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced, or baguette rounds
Boil the asparagus in a shallow pan for about 5 minutes, until tender and bright green. Remove from pan and put in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry.
Slice the trunk of the leek lengthwise and reserve one half for another use. Chop the remaining half. In a sauté pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft but not brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Roughly chop the cooled asparagus and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the ricotta and leek-garlic mixture and pulse until combined. Add the lemon juice and remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Purée until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, butter slices of bread and toast until golden. Spread a dollop of asparagus purée on each slice, then top with a piece of prosciutto.
Related: How To Trim Asparagus
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)