Spring is the time of year when you can start enjoying fabulous, fresh local produce no matter what climate zone you live in. There are so many benefits to eating food grown near your home, not the least of which is that it will ALWAYS be the freshest food you can buy, and it's also helping save the environment by reducing fuel consumption. Some of the delicious and super healthy foods that spring brings to our tables are also some of my favorites, and there are loads of free recipes all over the web and in newspapers and cookbooks to help inspire you. Asparagus is one of the shining stars at local markets right now, so here are some fast, easy ways to start enjoying them and all their health benefits right now, before their growing season is up.
These green stalky veggies are loaded with vitamins, which scientists, doctors and nutritionists agree are great for your health. What's more, most people agree they taste pretty awesome too, no matter how you prepare them too. Even my little girl enjoys their tips! Try them simply steamed or blanched for 5-7 minutes and tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, or butter. Use any leftovers to toss into your salad the next day. They are also delicious when grilled or roasted in the oven at 350 for about 12-15 minutes. You can marinate them before cooking, or toss them in a dressing after cooking, for a whole new layer of flavor. Your sauce could be as simple as a quick mixture of olive oil and your favorite vinegar (I love red wine vinegar or balsamic). A dash of mustard and / or some shallots and chopped garlic are nice additions as well. For something a bit more exotic, you could prepare an Asian-inspired marinade or dressing, using sesame oil, soy sauce, teriyaki, fresh ginger, etc. Or, you could dress them up in a more decadent, fancy way with a hollandaise sauce, or something similar.
Fresh asparagus can be enjoyed as a soup (yum!), or in a pasta dish. (They are always a main star in "pasta primavera," which in fact means "spring pasta.") They can serve as a salad, or a side dish, either just plain or topped with your favorite shredded cheese. They are even a wonderful finger-food option for your next party or mothers' day picnic! Kids love helping to wrap the cooled, cooked stalks in prosciutto or ham. Serve warm or cold. You really have to love a veggie this healthy, fresh, delicious and versatile.
What's your favorite local spring vegetable and how do you like to prepare it?