One of my favorite “go to” veggies when making a side dish is Asparagus. The mild flavor and beautiful appearance add a nice touch of class to any dish. It is very versatile as it pairs well with meat, fish, and poultry. I especially like enjoy serving it with a nice steak dish and with salmon. Unlike some vegetables that are best prepared one or two ways, the asparagus can be prepared in a number of delicious ways. Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, roasted, or grilled depending on how you prefer to serve it. Asparagus is a very healthy vegetable and is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. It is especially high in B vitamins, Vitamin K, folic acid, and fiber.
There are accounts of asparagus being used by Egyptians over 3000 years ago. Originally a coastal plant, it prefers sandy well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. Did you know that there are actually male and female asparagus plants? Older plants have thicker stalks and younger plants are thinner and more tender. Plants with thinner stalks are best for grilling and roasting. If your asparagus has thicker stalks, try steaming or boiling them for the best tenderness level. When buying asparagus look for stalks that are a nice deep green color and are round and not wrinkled or mis-shaped. The tops should be tight and not look dried out. Asparagus has a high respiration rate which means that it does not store well and should be used within a couple of days of purchase. You can stand the raw asparagus in a small vase with some water in the bottom (like roses or lilies) or in the fridge with a damp paper towel wrapped around the bottom of the stalk to help slow down moisture loss. Asparagus with thin stalks can be ready for cooking with very little preparation. Just wash them in cold water and cut or snap the woody bottoms off and you are ready to go. If I am using asparagus with thick stalks, I will peel the outer layer with a vegetable peeler to make sure they are tender. If you are using apparatus in a salad, like in the recipe below, I would steam or boil the apparatus and then immediately blanch them by running them under very cold water. This will stop the cooking process helping them retain their bright green color and some crispness.
This Asparagus Tomato Salad recipe is one of my all time favorite side dishes. Combining the asparagus with other veggies like zucchini and tomatoes makes for a very colorful presentation. Use grape tomatoes for this salad and take the time to make your own balsamic dressing. And don’t forget to sprinkle the top with CHEESE. It’s easy and delicious.
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 medium green pepper, julienned
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- Cook asparagus in a small amount of water until crisp-tender, about
- 3-4 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl;
- add the tomatoes, mushrooms and green pepper. In a small bowl,
- combine remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour over vegetable
- mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or
- overnight. Yield: 14 servings.