Wilted Spinach Salad with Asparagus

6 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried, and chilled
1 pound asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped

Remove stems and veins from spinach leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces; place spinach on individual serving plates.

Blanch the asparagus in lightly salted boiling water for approximately 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and refresh under cold water; drain and dry well; set aside.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion, garlic, and pepper; heat mixture until hot, stirring occasionally. Add cooked asparagus spears to dressing mixture, tossing to coat and reheat.

Remove from heat. Place asparagus spears over the top of the spinach. Pour warm dressing over asparagus and spinach. Sprinkle with chopped egg and serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Asparagus Leek Soup

1 1/2 pounds asparagus
3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced leek
2 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup half-and-half or raw milk
3/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Splash lemon juice (optional)

Cut asparagus into 1-inch chunks and simmer in chicken broth for about 5 minutes, until tender. In a small saucepan, melt butter and sauté leeks and garlic for five minutes on medium-low heat. Add flour and cook for one more minute.

Add the flour mixture to chicken broth and stir until thickened. Blend everything together until semi-smooth. Then return soup to sauce pan, add raw milk, thyme, and salt and pepper. Simmer everything for five minutes and then top with optional parmesan and lemon juice.

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Potato Soup with Bacon and Asparagus

4 slices thickly cut bacon
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups low-fat milk
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (optional)

Place bacon slices into a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Stir onion, garlic, and salt into the hot skillet and cook and stir until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and stir in the asparagus; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until asparagus are softened but still bright green, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain asparagus and set aside.

Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.

Transfer cooked potatoes to a soup pot and mash them with a potato masher, leaving some potato chunks for texture.

Pour milk into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high until the milk is hot, 1 to 3 minutes; stir milk occasionally as it heats. Pour hot milk into the potatoes and stir to combine.

Place soup over medium-low heat. Crumble bacon slices and stir bacon and the onion mixture into the soup; heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until soup thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle soup with chives to serve.

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