Tag Archives: asparagus

Spring has sprung

Spring has finally arrived! It’s so nice to have more regular warm temperatures and sunshine. I was able to plant some of my garden last week. I put in strawberries this year. Fingers crossed it works out.

The great news with changing seasons is that new fruits and vegetables are in season. You often can spot what is season based on the price at the store. And depending on where you live, that may vary. For example, corn on the cob won’t be ready around me (in Colorado) for months. But fresh corn on the cob was deliciously cheap coming in from California. Thank goodness for different climate areas within the US.

Fruits and Veggies More Matters is a great resource for seeing what is in season and how to cook it. Here are some fruits and veggies they list for “spring”:

Aspragus
Peas
Snap peas
Lettuce
Artichokes
Apricots
Fennel
Strawberries
Rhubarb
Honeydew
Corn
Green Beans
Broccoli

Granted you can get most of these all year round. But prices and flavor are usually best when they are in season. Rhubarb in particular is hard to find out of season. Asparagus is much thinner and more tender (and much cheaper) when bought this time of year. So go enjoy some spring produce. My lemon vegetable risotto is one of my favorites this time of year. Happy eating!

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Grilled Asparagus

One of my nephews will never pick favorites.  He doesn’t have a favorite sport, a favorite subject at school, a favorite activity on a vacation, etc.  If you ask him, he always says, “I didn’t have a favorite.”  Since I’m only asking to kill time and make conversation, it can be rather infuriating.  But as I thought about it, I’m not the best at picking favorites either.  People always ask what is your favorite dessert, restaurant, food, etc.  I need subcategories to really give a good answer.

However, I do think asparagus will always be in my top 5 favorite vegetables.  The only problem is it is only super affordable and available for about 1-2 weeks in the spring.  We have long since passed that time.  Off season asparagus isn’t always as tender, but you can still usually find some.  Especially through the late spring/early summer.  To me, asparagus makes any meal fancier.  I recently tried grilling my asparagus and loved it.  Enjoy!

Grilled Asparagus (Serves 4)

Grilled Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus (usually about ¾ -1 lb)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Skewers, wood or metal

1. If using wood skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes.

2. Trim about 1-2 inches off the bottom of asparagus to remove tough ends. Thread asparagus spears on to skewers. Thread towards the bottom, where the spears are thicker. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat grill to medium/medium-high heat. Place skewers of asparagus on to the grill, spears running perpendicular to the grates. Grill 3-5 minutes on each side, flipping when lightly charred. Remove from skewers to serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 51
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated fat: .5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 148 mg

Recipe notes: When looking for asparagus, look for bunches with thinner stalks, as these will be more tender. You can grill the asparagus without putting it on skewers, but I thought the skewers made them easier to handle.

Source: adapted from several sources online

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Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

The next few months feature a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are ripe and delicious and affordable like no other time of the year. I love it. There is nothing like asparagus in the spring when it is tender and delicious or tomatoes in the summer when they are juicy and meaty at the same time. However, I’m always in a small quandary with all these vegetables. I love baked pasta and roasted vegetables but hate turning my oven on at all for the next few months.

However, this pasta is completely worth it. And while hearty and filling like all baked pasta should be, it still tastes light, fresh, and springy, which not all baked pasta can achieve. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can mix up the veggies a bit based on what you have or what is in season. Zucchini or summer squashes would mix in deliciously. Asparagus was a nice addition in this batch. This freezes well, if you want to save it for cooler months when you want a reminder of what summer tasted like.

Enjoy!

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

1 large eggplant, cut into ¾-inch dice
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery stalk
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, diced
¼ cup grated parmesan
3-4 large tomatoes, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. OR Place eggplant on several layers of coffee filters or paper towels. Microwave for 10 minutes, or until beginning to look slightly shriveled.

3. Heat a large frying pan with the 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.

4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add carrots, celery, and asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, then add onion and garlic. Cook 5 more minutes on medium to medium-high heat. to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste ,and cook for two minutes more. Remove from heat and add eggplant, stock, oregano, lemon zest, pepper, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Mix well.

5. Transfer mixture to an 8×11 or 2 quarts ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 319
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 431 mg

Recipe Notes: As I mentioned above, mix up the veggies however you like it. And don’t be too scared of adding celery. You don’t taste it in the end. I really like the tomato flavor and the lemon flavor, so I add as much of those as I can. And DON’T precook your orzo. It is a small pasta, so it will cook just fine in the oven. If you can find whole wheat orzo, go for it. My smaller grocery store doesn’t carry it. If you are freezing, freeze it before baking. Then bake in at 350 until cooked through, probably 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Lemony Vegetable Risotto

Spring is a lovely time. Not only is the weather nicer, but some of my favorite vegetables are in season. Asparagus, peas, sugar snap peas, and artichokes are all delicious, and so much more affordable this time of year. The season is brief, so you have to eat them up while you can.

This risotto would be great with a medley of your favorite vegetables. The lemon brightens the whole dish up. Risotto is so creamy and delicious. It is so easy, too. I was intimidated by it the first time I made it. I still panic about halfway through every time, because it doesn’t seem to be thickening up. Then, it just magically goes from rice and broth in a pot to creamy, delicious risotto.

Lemony Vegetable Risotto (serves 4)

IMG_5256labeled

1 cup medium grain brown rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 small onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of about 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Boil rice for 15-20 minutes, until it is beginning to soften. Drain rice. If rice finishes before you are ready for it in the subsequent steps, spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.

2. Bring broth and water to boil. Reduce heat so liquid is barely simmering.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add asparagus, peas, and red pepper. Saute 7-10 minutes, until vegetables are mostly tender. Remove to a plate.

3. Add zucchini and squash to skillet. Cook 5-7 minutes, or until mostly tender. Remove and add to other vegetables.

4. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to skillet. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic powder and saute for 1 minute more.

5. Add brown rice from step 1. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 cup of broth. Cook until the liquid is absorbed/evaporated, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly and scraping the pan.

6. Add 1 cup of broth. Cook until liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring constantly. When there appears to be hardly any liquid left in the pan, add 1/2 cup more broth. Continue stirring and adding 1/2 cup broth when previous addition is absorbed. (It should take about 5 minutes after you add the first cup for the liquid to absorb; each 1/2 cup after that should take about 3 minutes.) After about 20-22 minutes, mixture will start to look creamy and liquid will be thickened in pan.

7. Stir in vegetables. Cook until reheated.

8. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. If you have any remaining broth, you can stir in 1/4 cup if the mixture has thickened up too much.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving)

Calories: 353
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 11 mg
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 689 mg

Recipe Notes: I have made this using brown rice as above and traditional arborio rice. Both are delicious. If you use arborio rice, you can skip step 1 and just add the raw rice after the onions and garlic powder. As I mentioned above, you can experiment with vegetables that are in season and according to your preferences. For the liquids added to the risotto, you traditionally would add 1/4 cup white wine first, rather than broth. I don’t usually have any wine handy, so I use broth instead. Also, you would stir in straight broth instead of diluting it. I prefer to dilute the broth to keep the sodium down. You can also use low sodium broth instead. I’ve just been having a hard time finding low sodium broth that I like. Also, I prefer the milder flavor; too much broth adds too many outside flavors to the rice. I like to taste the vegetables and the lemon, not just the chicken broth.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

Low iodine adjustment:  Use salt-free broth or homemade broth made with non-iodized salt.  Eliminate the parmesan cheese in the cooking;  allow others to add it to individual portions.

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