Saturday, May 9, 2009

Asparagus for Mum

Wishing all my readers who are Mum’s a very happy Mother’s Day this Sunday. Why not treat Mum to a home made brunch or lunch with a tasty but healthy, asparagus recipe? See below for some ideas.

Asparagus whether fresh, frozen or tinned, is one of the little luxuries most women love due to it being low in calories and sodium. It contains excellent amounts of folic acid (folate is very necessary for Mums-to-be), vitamins A, C & K, and dietary fibre. Asparagus also contains good amounts of tryptophan, manganese, copper, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, calcium, potassium, rutin and the B vitamins.

Like onions, leeks and garlic, asparagus is a member of the Lily family. Originating in Southern Europe and cultivated for well over 2000 years, asparagus was loved by the Greeks and Romans as a cleansing and healing plant. Culpepper, the herbalist, said that “The decoction of the roots boiled in wine, and taken is good to clear the sight, and being held in the mouth easeth the toothache.” He also stated that it “Helps those sinews that are shrunk by cramps and convulsions, and helpeth the sciatica”. Due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties Chinese herbalists have used asparagus root for hundreds of years to treat many health problems like arthritis. It is also known as a natural diuretic, an anti-viral and immune booster, and helps maintain normal heart function. Modern studies have also shown that a prebiotic fibre in asparagus helps to stimulate the growth of the friendly probiotic bacteria in our gut and therefore helps to maintain digestive health.

NOTE: Purines in asparagus can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid in the system so if a person suffers from gout or kidney stones it is best to limit the amount of asparagus eaten.

Asparagus is available both in green and white varieties with spears ranging from pencil-thin to a jumbo size. A purple variety now available in some countries. When choosing fresh asparagus look for firm spears with closed, compact tips and uniform size to help when cooking. Larger diameter spears are more tender. To store, rinse, pat dry, trim stems and wrap or place in covered contained and placed in fridge. Will keep well there for a couple of days. Asparagus is easy and simple to prepare as the spears can be eaten raw, steamed or stir fried for a 5 to 10 minutes, or roasted/grilled for a short period, depending on their size. Microwaving often makes them tough if overcooked. The spears can be used in many dishes from soups to salads. It is a personal choice whether you peel them or not, I do not.

For people wishing to grow their own organic asparagus please visit Garden Zone which gives simple instructions how to do so. The spears can be harvested fom the 2nd year of growth and the plants have been know to last up to 15 years in a home garden. Tomatoes are an excellent companion plant for asparagus, they prevent beetles from infesting the asparagus, and a chemical in asparagus kills nematodes which often kill tomato plants by infecting their roots.

Enjoy the simple recipes below and give your Mum a treat by making one of them.


Raw Asparagus Cream Soup
From Tommie of Awesome to be Rawsome

6 or 8 tender asparagus spears
1/4 cup really raw cashews
juice of half a lemon
sea salt to taste (optional)

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus spears where they will snap easily. Cut off the tender tips and squeeze lemon juice over them. Cut remaining spears into pieces and put into blender with the cashews. Cover with water. Blend until very smooth. Taste and add sea salt if desired. Cut the tips into small pieces and stir in with the lemon juice. Serve in a soup mug. Serves 2.

I put in some kelp noodles I'd cut in spoonable sized lengths and soaked in the lemon with the tips. It was so good I would have stuck my head inside the blender container to lick every drop if I could. I'll be buying more asparagus, for sure. ~ Tommie

Vegan Asparagus and Phyllo Cigars
From the Vegan Chef

1/4 cup freshly chopped dill
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly snipped chives
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
6 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
olive oil
6 tbsps sesame seeds, toasted
24 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed

In a small bowl, place the chopped dill, parsley, chives, and lemon zest, toss well to combine, and set aside. On a work surface, place one sheet of phyllo dough, and cover the remaining with a clean towel to keep them from drying out. Brush the phyllo dough with a little olive oil, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture and 1 tablespoons sesame seeds evenly over the entire surface. Using a sharp knife or pastry wheel cutter, cut the sheet of phyllo dough vertically into 4 strips. For each strip of phyllo, place the end of one asparagus spear at the bottom edge, then tightly roll at a slight diagonal to enclose the length of the spear of asparagus, and tuck in the end of the strip of phyllo at the tip of the asparagus. Transfer the phyllo-wrapped spear to a large plate. Repeat the rolling procedure for the remaining strips and then repeat the entire procedure for the remaining sheets of phyllo dough and asparagus spears. When all of the phyllo cigars have been assembled, cover them with a clean towel and place them in the refrigerator to chill for one hour or more. Transfer the phyllo cigars to a non-stick cookie sheet and bake them at 425F / 220C for 18-20 minutes or until the phyllo dough is lightly browned and crisp. Yield: 2 Dozen.

Asparagus with Shiitakes, Shallots, and Peas
From Whole Living

2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
5 shallots, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise or bunch spring onions chopped
8 ozs / 225gms shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
coarse salt
Ground pepper
1 1/2 tsps grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsps chopped fresh tarragon
2 medium thick asparagus bunches, tough ends removed, cut on diagonal into 2″ / 5cm lengths (approx 2lbs / 1kg pounds)
1 cup frozen peas
2 tsps fresh lemon juice

In a large nonstick skillet or wok with a lid, heat oil over medium. Add shallots and cook until they begin to color, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until mushrooms and shallots are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon zest and tarragon; toss to combine. In the same skillet, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add asparagus, season with salt, cover, and cook until asparagus is bright green and tender, 3 to 4 minutes (timing will vary depending upon thickness of asparagus). Add peas to skillet, and then drain. Transfer to bowl with the shallots and mushrooms, add lemon juice, and toss to combine. Serves 6.

Couscous with Green and White Asparagus

1 1/2 cups stock
1 cup couscous
3/4 lb / 350gms / 2 cups green and white asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in half
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped arugula (rocket)
2 tsps extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the couscous, stir, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus and then transfer to a bowl filled with ice water. Season the couscous with salt and pepper. Stir in asparagus, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the arugula and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and serve. Serves 4.

Roast Tomatoes with Asparagus & Black Olives
From BBC Good Food

2ozs / 50g cherry tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves , peeled and halved
24 asparagus spears
a handful of black olives , stoned and chopped

Preheat the oven to fan 180C (350F)/conventional 200C (400F) /gas 6. Spread the tomatoes out on a large baking tray and prick each one with a fork. Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and scatter with the garlic. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Lay asparagus flat in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Splash with 3 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roll the spears until they’re hot and evenly coated with oil. Remove tomatoes from oven and pour off the excess juice. Push tomatoes to one side of tray and lay asparagus next to them. Return to oven and roast for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the olives before serving warm or at room temperature. Vegetables can be done up to two hours before serving and kept at room temperature.

Asparagus with Vegan Hollandaise
From the Vegetarian Times

1/2 cup silken tofu
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp corn oil
2 lb / 1kg asparagus, trimmed

Heat tofu on plate in microwave 30 to 45 seconds, or until warmed through. Transfer to food processor, and purée until smooth. Add lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, cayenne, and turmeric; pulse until well combined. With food processor running, add oil in steady stream to finish sauce. Steam asparagus 2 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Drain, and serve with sauce. Serves 6

Previous Blog Recipes:
Avocado and Asparagus Salad
Asparagus Stir Fry with Grapefruit and Almonds
Baked Asparagus


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