May marks National Asparagus Month; here are ideas to help you enjoy this popular spring vegetable.
How to select and store asparagus:
Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact and firm tips. Also look for cut ends that are not dry.
Keep fresh asparagus clean, cold and covered. Trim the stem end about 1/4 inch and wash in warm water several times. To maintain freshness, wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water. Refrigerate and use within two or three days for best quality.
If storing in the freezer, blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then cool in ice water immediately. Drain well and pack in plastic freezer bags or containers leaving no excess air space. Use within eight months for best quality.
Health benefits of asparagus:
Asparagus is a good source of folic acid, providing up to 33 percent of your daily needs in a half-cup serving. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins that helps the body produce and maintain new cells. In particular, red blood cell formation is dependent on adequate levels of this vitamin. It may also help cells resist changes in their DNA associated with the development of cancer. Folic acid plays a very important role in pregnancy by significantly reducing the incidence of birth defects known as neural tube defects (malformations of the spine and brain).
Asparagus is rich in fiber, containing about 3 grams per cup. It also contains a noteworthy amount of protein (about 4-5 grams per cup). Both protein and fiber help stabilize our digestion and keep food moving through us at a desirable rate.
Asparagus also contains significant amounts of the nutrient inulin, which is referred to as a "prebiotic." Inulin bypasses the first segments of digestion and arrives at the large intestine undigested. Because of this, it is an ideal food source for certain kinds of "good" bacteria in our intestine that are associated with better nutrient absorption.
A few quick serving ideas:
1. Add chopped asparagus to salads, omelets, rice, quinoa and pasta dishes.
2. Coat asparagus with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes. (You can also season with any additional spices you prefer, or try coating in grated Parmesan cheese)
3. Fire up the grill. Marinate asparagus in olive oil, coarsely-ground pepper, kosher salt, minced garlic and a bit of balsamic vinegar for about two hours. Thread six to seven asparagus stalks into a row, onto two bamboo skewers, piercing the asparagus toward the top and bottom of the stalk. Barbecue at a medium-heat setting for a total of 5-6 minutes.
The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Asparagus with Creamy Tarragon Sauce
Serves 4. Active time: 15 minutes Total: 15 minutes
All you need
2 bunches asparagus, tough ends trimmed
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
6 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
All you do
1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice, water, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus. Serve warm or cold.
To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate the sauce for up to 3 days. This sauce is like a luscious, creamy barnaise sauce without all the calories and fat.
Nutrition facts per serving: 114 calories; 7g fat (1g sat, 2g mono); 8mg cholesterol; 10g carbohydrate; 0g added sugars; 4g protein; 2g fiber; 350mg sodium; 336mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Folate (42% daily value), Vitamin A (25% dv). Carbohydrate Servings: 1/2
Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.