asparagus

Apr 072016
 

Recipe: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

 

 

In my previous post, I highlighted some seasonal fruits and vegetables which are at their prime in April: Asparagus, Grapefruit and Rucola (also called arugula in the US or rocket in the UK).

 

I came up with a simple recipe which uses all three of these ingredients, called ‘Asparagus and Rucola Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette’. Although asparagus can be eaten raw, I lightly grill it for this recipe to deepen its flavour. The rucola works as a simple base and can be mixed with other spring greens of you find its flavour too overpowering. And I felt the best way to use the grapefruit was in a dressing.

 

This recipe can be used as a base on which to build a more complex salad by adding additional ingredients on top. Otherwise, it is delicious served simply as it is.

 

 

ASPARAGUS and RUCOLA SALAD with GRAPEFRUIT VINAIGRETTE

 

Dressing ingredients:

(makes half a cup – recipe can be doubled)

5 Tbsp (75ml) freshly squeezed juice from a grapefruit

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Salad ingredients:

1-2 handfuls of rucola per person (or some other green leaf)

Asparagus spears (for thin asparagus, allow 8-10 spears per person; for thick asparagus, allow 4-5 spears per person)

Olive oil (to lightly coat the asparagus spears before grilling)

Shaved parmesan (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare Grapefruit Vinaigrette by combining all the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a lid and shaking it well. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Wash and dry the rucola leaves.
  3. Trim the end off the asparagus spears and toss them lightly in extra virgin olive oil. Grill in a panini press on medium heat until you see grill lines. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 200C/400F and roast the asparagus spears in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes (turning halfway through.)
  4. When ready to serve, toss the rucola leaves in the grapefruit vinaigrette. If serving in individual plates, place 1-2 handfuls of rucola on each plate and then the asparagus spears on top. If there is any leftover dressing, you can spoon a little bit over the asparagus.
  5. As an option, you can add a few shavings of parmesan cheese on top of the salad.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

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Apr 012016
 

Seasonal: April - Asparagus, Arugula and Grapefruit

 

April means that we’re well into Springtime. Here is what you should be snacking on this month:

 

Asparagus is in season from March until June, with April being it’s peak month. Raw asparagus has a taste similar to mangetout, and it can be eaten in many different ways. Thin and delicate spears can be eaten as is, while thick spears do well if you slice them thinly. You can dunk them in your favourite dip, throw them into a salad, or scatter them on top of virtually anything you’re eating. If you can’t quite get yourself to munch on raw asparagus, tossing them with olive oil and throwing them into a grill pan, panini press or oven to cook lightly will intensify their flavour to the more familiar asparagus taste that most of us are used to. Cooked asparagus can be kept in the refrigerator for upto three days.

 

Grapefruit is in season from winter until late Spring/early summer. Being rather bitter, grapefruit often gets neglected by some of us over the winter months because it has to compete with its sweeter counterparts like clementines, navel oranges and mandarins. However, by Spring a lot of the sweeter citrus fruits are past their best so grapefruit gets a chance to shine. Unless you are used to its bitterness, eating a grapefruit can be a difficult experience. Juicing it makes it easier, especially if you juice it with another sweeter fruit. Grapefruit works well in salad dressings too. I’ll be posting a recipe for Grapefruit Vinaigrette next week, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Rucola (‘Rucola’ is the name in Italy, ‘Arugula’ is the name in the USA, and ‘Rocket’ is the name in the UK) is a spicy peppery leaf which thrives in Spring. If you like rucola’s spiciness, you can dress it simply with olive oil, vinegar and salt (shave some parmesan on that while you’re at it) for a simple side salad. However, if you find the zingy spiciness overwhelming, then mix it up with other leaves. It’s also a delicious addition to any sandwich or tossed into pasta. Throughout the month of April, have a stash of rucola (washed, dried and stored in a salad spinner) ready to use in the refrigerator.

 

Next week, I’m going to post the recipe for a salad using all of the ingredients above, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Recipe: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

 

The produce above is in season in April in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, April seasonal produce includes Granny Smith apples, Valencia oranges and pomegranates.

 

 

 

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Apr 142015
 

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 


Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable, in season between March and June.

 

It comes in a variety of colors – most commonly green, but also purple or white. White asparagus is considered a delicacy. Although it is the same variety as green asparagus, its white colour is cultivated by being covered with soil while it grows. This prevents it from receiving the sunlight necessary to make the chlorophyll which turns vegetables green. White asparagus tends to be twice as expensive as the green variety.

 

Asparagus spears come in a variety of thicknesses depending on their age, from super-skinny to medium to thick. Surprisingly, the thickness of the asparagus has little bearing on how tender the asparagus spear will be. Although older thicker stalks do benefit from some peeling of the fibrous outer skin, its inner flesh is often very tender.

 

There are a variety of ways to prepare asparagus for a salad. If the asparagus is very thin, you can simply eat it raw. However, I find that raw asparagus doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as cooked asparagus. Roasting, sautéing, steaming, boiling and blanching are all good options.

 

In this recipe, I wanted to keep the flavors very fresh, so I opted for blanching my asparagus. Blanching is simply simmering your vegetables for a few minutes until they are just al dente and then plunging them into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. The ice water also helps brighten and set the beautiful green colour of the asparagus.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus?

 


Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 

ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH LEMON-SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1 shallot, very finely diced (approximately 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used 4 twists of the pepper mill)

 

Salad Ingredients:

250g asparagus, bottom third cut off (discard or save for use in a stock)

200g green beans (stalk trimmed off) (alternatively, you can use green peas)

2 baby gem lettuces (enough lettuce to put a few leaves on the base of each plate)

4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 Tbsp chopped pecans/walnuts

 

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, finely dice a shallot (you need around 2 Tbsp of diced shallot). Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside to allow the flavors to develop. Refrigerate if you are not using within an hour. This dressing can be made upto 48 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
  2. Roughly chop some walnuts or pecans (you will need about 4 Tbsp of chopped nuts). Set aside.
  3. Wash your radishes and lettuce leaves. Place them on a tea-towel to dry. Thinly slice the radishes. If you are using baby gem lettuce, you will not need to chop it as the leaves are small. If you are using another type f lettuce, you may want to chop it a little.
  4. Wash your asparagus. If the stalk is thick, cut off the lower third and then use a potato peeler to peel off one layer of the remaining lower half of the asparagus.
  5. Wash your green beans and cut off the stalks. I prefer to leave the green beans long rather than chop them.
  6. To blanch your vegetables, fill a large bowl with water and ice and set it aside. You will need this water to plunge the vegetables into after cooking.
  7. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water. When the water is boiling, drop in the asparagus and cook them until they are just al dente, around 3 minutes (depending on thickness – mine were quite thick). Do not drain the water (you will need it for the next batch of vegetables). Remove the asparagus from the cooking pot with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry. Add more ice to the water if necessary.
  8. Make sure the pot of water is boiling and drop the green beans into it. Cook them until they are just al dente, around 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove them and place them in the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove them from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry.
  9. If not serving immediately, refrigerate your vegetables.
  10. To serve, allow the vegetables 10 minutes out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Place the lettuce leaves on the bottom of the plate. Scatter some green beans on top and then place a few asparagus spears. Scatter some sliced radishes and chopped nuts on top.
  11. Shake the dressing. Serve the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus? 

 

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