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Asparagus for dessert

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1. Steam until gently softened, then juice one bunch asparagus (if using a blender, strain the juice); chill

2. Bring to a simmer 2 cups half-and-half,
1⁄4 cup sugar, pinch of salt

3. Sprinkle one packet of Knox unflavored gelatin over cool asparagus juice in a pan; allow to stand 5 minutes, then gently heat to dissolve and mix in half-and-half mixture; pour into ramekins, chill 4 hours

Updated: June 23, 2014 11:14AM

Until well into my20s, I thought I didn’t like asparagus. That’s because the asparagus I’d had as a kid came in cans; it was unappetizing, gray and stringy.

When fresh asparagus started to appear on my dinner plate, it was a revelation. The stuff was really good: crisp, slightly bitter but also a little sweet, a crunch of springtime.

People have appreciated asparagus for millennia. The flowering spring vegetable is a member of lily family, like garlic and onions, and it was depicted on Egyptian friezes carved thousands of years B.C. Ancient Romans stored asparagus in the Alps and brought it down yearly for the annual Festival of Epicurus (whose name is the root of “epicurean,” associated with the love of food).

We encountered asparagus panna cotta for the first time at Macku Signature (2925 N Halsted).

Here is a simplified version of Chef Macku’s recipe for this surprising dessert made of asparagus. If you want to get fancy, you can, like Macku, add fresh berries and a berry puree, all topped with whipped cream. Our recipe for asparagus panna cotta is versatile; in fact, because you juice the asparagus, you can use asparagus spears even after they’ve gone to seed.

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