Few foods evoke spring more than does asparagus. These luscious green stalks are the quintessential spring vegetable.
While many people have love/hate relationships with vegetables, most people seem to like asparagus. The grassy, delicate taste is mild and not the least bit overpowering so it appeals to most.
And lucky that it does, because asparagus is loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, including calcium, iron, riboflavin, manganese, magnesium, niacin, zinc, thiamine, vitamins A, B6, C ……the list goes on and on. All of this and only 34 calories a cup make asparagus a real nutritional bargain.
Spring is when asparagus is naturally at its best. Buying foods seasonally and regionally is a good idea because the foods are at their peak of taste, freshness, and availability. Not needing to be shipped long distances or put in cold storage means that produce is at the best possible price, as well. Giant Eagle had asparagus at only $.99 a pound this week - and it was delicious!
The asparagus spear is actually a flower stalk with the top being the bud. When purchasing, look for tight tops, rigid stalk, and clean, firm bottoms. Avoid any slimy bottoms, open tops, and general flaccidity.
Asparagus should be stored upright in a container with a little water in the bottom. This will help them stay fresh and firm. As with most fresh produce, use asparagus as soon as possible after purchasing for maximum taste and nutrition.
Asparagus is simply delicious steamed, roasted, grilled, and it can even be microwaved. This month's recipe offers a little different spin. The asparagus is blanched and shocked - quickly plunged into boiling water and then ice water - in order to keep the asparagus crisp tender and lock in a beautiful green color. Then it is tossed with a simple sesame sauce and toasted sesame seeds and chilled.
The result is a tasty salad or side dish that can be served chilled, at room temperature, or even warmed. It's a great buffet dish, a nice side with Asian flavored dishes, and particularly tasty with grilled meats. If that is not enough, two or three spears skewered horizontally on a small decorative skewer make an elegant appetizer!
Asian Asparagus with SesameIngredients
- 2 lbs asparagus
- 4 TBS sesame seeds
- 3 TBS dark sesame oil
- 1 ½ tsps sugar
- 2 TBS rice wine vinegar
- 2 TBS soy sauce
- Cut the woody ends off of the asparagus.
- Trim the asparagus uniformly into 1 ½ - 2 inch lengths.
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil.
- Add the asparagus and blanche for 1 - 2 minutes, no longer.
- Remove from the water and shock the asparagus by plunging it into ice water. This will stop the cooking process.
- Pat dry with paper towels.
- Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet until lightly browned.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce.
- Pour over the asparagus, add the sesame seeds and gently toss together.
- Chill the asparagus and let the flavors meld for at least one hour.
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This class is made possible through the generosity of Legacy Village Giant Eagle. Please patronize them and let them know if you enjoyed the class!