Spring in Minnesota. It's a time we look forward to, and for those who like to garden, their thoughts turn to seeds and planting. One of our first fresh vegetables of the season is asparagus. If you have an established patch of asparagus, you know how quick it is to appear and grow, as well as how tasty those first fresh spears are!
This popular green vegetable is a nutrient powerhouse. It is also a low calorie choice. Each stalk provides only about five calories, but it contains high levels of vitamins A, B, C, oxalic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and folate. And it is high in fiber and an antioxidant. It is a great addition to any meal.
Asparagus can be served a number of ways. The most common is probably as a side dish to most any entree. It can be added to hotdishes for a savory flavor. It can be grilled on your barbecue grill. It can be made into soup. And it can be put incorporated into a salad. Following is fun recipe to use to feature the fresh springtime asparagus. This recipe can be served as a side salad or by adding some diced chicken or other meat, could easily be a light entree.
Asparagus Pasta Salad
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 (16-17 ounce) package whole grain rotini or bowtie noodles
2 cups grape tomatoes
1/2 cup red or purple onion, sliced
2 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 (.6 ounce) package Italian Dressing
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 T water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. sugar
Rinse asparagus with cool water and cut off any dry, stubby ends. Chop into 1 inch pieces. Bring water to a boil in a large kettle. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. During final three minutes of boiling the noodles, put the asparagus into the pot and boil with the noodles. Drain the noodles and asparagus in a large colander and rinse with cold water and drain well. Wash tomatoes and slice in half. Add to noodles and asparagus. Add onions, artichoke hearts and cheese and stir lightly to combine.
In a jar or small blender place all the dressing ingredients. Seal the jar and shake vigorously to mix or blend in a blender. Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the noodles and stir lightly to mix. Cover and refrigerate one hour. When ready to serve, add rest of the dressing, stir lightly to mix and serve.
Makes: 12 servings
Calories: 270 calories/per serving
Fat: 10 grams fat/serving
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.