Cook | Passover forecast: sultry green stalks and heavenly fruit

When local asparagus and rhubarb start showing up in your market, can Passover be far behind? These harbingers of spring always appear on my seder table, as they did on my mother’s table and her mother’s.

You can get asparagus grown in Mexico any time of year, but the real deal comes from Stockton, the “Asparagus Capital of the World.” These sultry stalks always generate discussions about what to buy and how best to cook, prepare and eat them: white or green or lavender, thick or thin, cold or hot, cooked in a skillet or poached in boiling water. Asparagus tastes best when peeled before cooking and prepared simply.

For dessert, strawberries grown in Southern California are another early spring favorite. Pairing them with rhubarb is a match made in food heaven. I can’t imagine a more perfect conclusion to a seder meal than a slice of sponge cake topped by this compote. It is light, not too sweet, and so refreshing and palate-cleansing.


Asparagus-Leek Soup

Serves 6-8

3 Tbs. vegetable oil

2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 small potato, peeled and diced

11⁄2 lbs. asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces*

salt and pepper to taste

3 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

1 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves

In large saucepan, heat oil. Add leeks and cook until soft, about 6 minutes.

Stir in stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer about 10 minutes and then add asparagus. Simmer another 10 minutes until asparagus is soft.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Taste for salt and pepper. Purée mixture in blender or food processor. Stir in dill and sprinkle with tarragon before serving.


Asparagus and Carrot Salad

Serves 4-6

1 lb. asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces*

1 lb. baby carrots

salt and pepper


about 12 basil leaves, chopped

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. fresh orange juice

1 Tbs. white wine vinegar

4 Tbs. olive oil

Cook asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and run under cool water. Add carrots to same pot with boiling water and cook 4 minutes; remove with slotted spoon or drain in a colander. Run under cold water.

Combine asparagus and carrots. Mix dressing ingredients until well combined. Toss with asparagus mixture.

*Asparagus has a tough outer membrane that should be removed with a vegetable peeler. The end of the stalk can be woody and tough; snap off as if you were breaking a twig.


Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

Serves 6

1 1⁄2 lbs. rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1⁄3 cup sugar

1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon

1⁄2 cup water

2  strips lemon zest

1 pint strawberries, stemmed and quartered

Put first five ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is just breaking down.

Remove from heat and stir in strawberries. Let cool and taste for sweetness. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Feasts.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].