Aspire to Asparagus
What is the first sign of spring? Some may say snow melting, having the kids off of school for spring break, or the chocolates and peeps frenzy that Easter has come to signify. For me, it’s when I see the first spears of asparagus pop up in the garden or grocery store. Ahhhh, asparagus, the gift that comes back every year to grace our tables once again. Count on it. As a perennial plant, asparagus keeps pops up – depending on where you live – in mid to late spring, for years after it’s been planted. I remember visiting my grandparent’s acreage when I was young and helping to harvest the organic asparagus spears that seemed to miraculously push through the dirt like long, fat green fingers. My younger sister used to call them “scary bus” and didn’t care for them. More for me, then and now.
Some asparagus is recorded as coming back between 15 years to a lifetime. Now that’s a lifetime guarantee I can get behind! Even though my asparagus hasn’t popped up in my garden yet, I’m ready to move things along. I’ve been thinking about my favorite asparagus and tomato salad and wanting to add it to our family meals several times a week.
Public service announcement: you don’t need lettuce for a salad, not even kale or spinach! Anyone out there who doesn’t think they don’t like salad (or has kids who thinks they don’t) it’s time to start thinking outside the box. My favorite asparagus tomato salad will have you forgetting there’s a main course coming! Or, you could call it a salsa and serve it with any of the flavors of Luke’s Organic multi grain chips or crackers. Who doesn’t love salsa? Or maybe even think of it as a chunky version of kombucha if you wish; after all, there’s the delicious vinegar in the recipe as well.
Or (four or’s? yes indeedy) if you eat your salad at the end of the meal like my family does, this is the perfect digestive. And this recipe is truly is one of those less is more situations; only a few fresh ingredients pack a seriously tasty punch. Not to mention asparagus is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory veggies. Asparagus is also an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, copper, vitamins B1, B2, C, and E.
1 lb. fresh organic asparagus (preferably medium thickness), tough ends trimmed, remaining diced into 2-inch pieces (or smaller for that salsa feel)
1 C organic grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (omit for nut-free)
3oz feta cheese, crumbled (omit for dairy-free)
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
The first step is to blanche the asparagus. It not only cleans and tenderizes the vegetables, but also stops enzyme actions, which can cause loss of flavor, texture and vitamins.
Bring about 6 C of water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil over medium heat and cool for about 3 minutes. It should reduce by half in this short amount of time. Pour the vinegar into a bowl with the remaining vinaigrette ingredients and whisk together, adding salt and pepper to taste.
When the water has come to a rolling boil, add asparagus and allow boil about 4 – 5 minutes, until just crisp and fork-tender. To stop the cooking process, drain the asparagus immediately and transfer it to a bowl of ice water. Let the asparagus rest about 10 seconds then drain well, shaking off excess water.
Transfer to the bowl with your vinaigrette, and add the tomatoes and walnuts. I like to add the feta on top as a garnish, otherwise the balsamic turns it brown, and some members of my family enjoy feta less than others.
You can dig in right away, or chill it in the refrigerator for a while. I love it cold, especially leftover as part of my lunch at work. It feels great to have at heart healthy vitamin boost mid-day, and a delicious one at that. Add your Luke’s Protein and Fiber chips and you can easily call that a well-balanced meal.
Other great additions to this recipe could be scallions, pomegranate arils, avocado, celery, or bell peppers, or perhaps other seeds instead of nuts, like sunflower or pumpkin. Have fun, get creative, play with your food! That’s what snacking like a kid and living like a grown up is all about!