By the end of March, the first signs of spring are visible in most markets. It is time to change gears in the kitchen and think about salad instead of hearty soups, and fresh vegetables in lieu of frozen. Asparagus is one of spring's greatest offerings it is delicious, low-calorie and healthful, especially in vitamins A, B and C.
First enjoyed by the ancient Greeks, asparagus continues to be among the most popular green vegetables around. Beautiful and easy to prepare, it seems almost too good to be true that it's also good for you and versatile. As an appetizer, a first course, soup, or a vegetable dish alongside an entree - asparagus is wonderful in all its incarnations.
Oddly enough, asparagus hails from the lily family. The earliest, most tender stalks are a beautiful apple green with purple-tinged tips. If you're lucky enough to have a garden to grow your own (warning: it takes two years after planting to produce the first edible shoots), try slicing raw asparagus straight from the garden into your salad.
If you're not so lucky, choose firm, smooth, bright green stalks with tight tips and be sure to eat them soon after purchase. The fresher, the better. Be sure to rinse the tips well as they are grown in sandy soil. Before cooking, trim spears to remove the woody, inedible part at the ends: Just bend each stalk until it breaks, usually at the point where the tough part begins.
The recipe below can be used for a first course or as an accompaniment to a light spring dinner. For a more elegant salad, you could add walnuts, sliced oranges and crumbled goat cheese.
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Asparagus Salad With Lemon-Soy Sauce
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 1/4 lbs. thin asparagus stalks, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch lengths
- 8 whole scallions, trimmed to include a little green
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
- 5 scallions, trimmed to include a little green, minced and divided in 2 batches
- 1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- Freshly ground-black pepper
- 1 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste
- Steam asparagus and the whole scallions in a steam basket over boiling water (or in the microwave, with a small amount of water) until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse under running cold water to stop the cooking and set color. Drain and cool.
- To make the dressing, heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and stir until it begins to color. Add half the minced scallions and cook a few seconds. Add broth, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside.
- Just before serving, place the remaining minced scallions in a large bowl. Add steamed asparagus and scallions. Bring the dressing to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil 30 seconds. Gradually stir in pepper and lemon juice, tasting, to achieve an appealing tart and peppery flavor. Toss the vegetables with the dressing.
Nutritonal Information Per Serving:
4 g. total fat
Less than 1 g. saturated fat
12 g. carbohydrate
5 g. protein
5 g. dietary fiber
134 mg. sodium