Food columnist Judi Leaming takes advantage of the season's offerings with tasty recipes featuring garden favorites the asparagus and the strawberry.

Recently I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy of “Fresh from the Farmstand” from Gooseberry Patch. What perfect timing! Be on the lookout for this new collection of recipes. Now I just have to wait patiently for local produce so that I can test more recipes. 

We’ve been enjoying lots of asparagus and strawberries. The Asparagus-leek Chowder lasted less than 24 hours in our household. The original recipe did not call for the curry powder but I added it for a little more “zing.” My neighbor and friend, Elaine Townsend, relies on blanched, chilled asparagus with a variety of dressings and/or toppings as her “go-to” salad/side dish for her buffets. Spicer and I have a new appreciation for this and other hot asparagus dishes.

When we go to buy asparagus, there are always lots of lovely bright red strawberries calling out to us, but there’s just never enough time to test all of the recipes that I have accumulated and want to try out for you. It used to be that we were lucky if fresh strawberries were available by Memorial Day, but we’ve been enjoying local berries from here (Cambridge) since late April and I’ve got my fingers crossed in hope that the season will be prolonged this year.

The strawberry recipes that follow have been shared with me because I requested them after tasting the finished product. Last week, I told you about Agnes Robinson’s wonderful Crunchy Tossed Salad and this week Agnes has generously provided the recipe for the very delicious Chilled Strawberry Soup that she used as the appetizer for our dinner.

The Strawberry Tart was a blue-ribbon winner at last year’s Delaware State Fair, and the judges raved and raved about it. Gigi Law, from Newark, graciously shared the recipe with me, and now I’m looking forward to tasting her entries in the 2012 Fair.

Asparagus-Leek Chowder

(Adapted from Gooseberry’s new “Fresh from the Farmstand” cookbook)

6 tablespoons butter

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and washed, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

3 leeks, white portion only, cleaned and sliced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups half-and-half

1 (11-ounce) can vacuum packed corn kernels, drained

1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder

In a large saucepan or stir-fry skillet, melt butter. Add asparagus, mushrooms and leeks and sauté for about 10 minutes until tender. Mix in flour, salt and pepper until blended; cook and stir until flour is lightly golden. Gradually whisk in broth then half-and-half until thickened. Bring almost to a boil until small bubbles form around the outside edge of the soup. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add corn and curry powder and stir to heat and blend well. Serves 4.


Chilled Strawberry Soup

(Recipe shared by Agnes Robinson)

1 quart fresh strawberries, capped and halved

1 cup orange juice

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons quick cooking tapioca

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In blender combine strawberries, orange juice and cinnamon. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan, add the tapioca and let stand for 5 minutes. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice and zest.  Mix well. Refrigerate and chill completely before serving. (Can be frozen.)


Strawberry Tart

(Blue-ribbon winner for Gigi Law at the 2011 Delaware State Fair)

1 prepared pastry for 9-inch pie

3-ounces German sweet chocolate, melted

2 (8-ounce) bricks cream cheese, room temperature

3 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1/4 cup red currant jelly

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Press piecrust onto bottom and up the sides of an un-greased, 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Spread melted chocolate over bottom of cooled crust. Cover and refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Meanwhile in a large bowl beat the cream cheese, cream and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar. Spread over chocolate layer. Arrange strawberries over filling; brush with jelly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Remove sides of pan before serving.