By Deb Kussmann

With recent events it seems to be a great time to take a deep breath and notice the things that inspire joy. Temperatures are rising, robins are singing, and if you’re a gardener you’re likely already preparing for this year’s gardens.

For me, there is no other vegetable that represents spring like the tender green shoots of asparagus. Asparagus has been cultivated for hundreds of years, with over 20 edible varieties of which many are successfully grown in our climate, appearing as early as March until July. White varieties are more common in Europe where white asparagus is grown completely below ground to prevent photosynthesis which turns the stalks green.

I am featuring green asparagus in this super savory and easy recipe meant for sharing (or not), but first, there are a few things to keep in mind to achieve the best results for any asparagus dish.

How to select: You’ll want to look for firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed leaves in the crown. For this recipe, try to select uniform stalks for even cooking. One pound equals 16 to 20 spears. Avoid stalks that are limp, dry, that have overly large stalks or crowns that don’t have tight leaf buds, as these may be old and could be bitter
to taste.

How to store: Stand unwashed stalks upright in about an inch of water and cover or wrap the stem ends in a wet paper towel and seal the asparagus in a reusable beeswax wrap which will extend its life when refrigerated.

How to prepare: When ready to use, wash the stalks under cold water, then hold both the center of the spear and the end and bend until the tough, fibrous base snaps right off. Discard the end. Repeat with all stalks.

Asparagus goes well with: bread crumbs, butter, cheese sauce, chervil, crab, cream, eggs, garlic, hollandaise sauce, horseradish, lemon, mayonnaise, morels, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, olive oil, onion, orange, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper, rosemary, shallots, soy, vinaigrette.

Asparagus, caramelized onion and gruyere tart
400 F, Serves 6-8, 160 Calories per serving

Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
2 small white onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges.
Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
While the pastry is baking, sauté thinly sliced onions for 10 to 15 minutes in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter until golden brown. Stir frequently, to prevent burning. Take of heat and set aside.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with shredded Gruyere.
Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips.
Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper.
You can top with additional cubes of soft cheese such as brie (optional)
Bake until spears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Deb Kussmann is the founder of Pepper Tree Spice Co. and creator of over 90 signature seasonings. Navigating around diet trends, market changes and social issues affecting our ever-changing relationship with food, her passion is sharing with people who love food