On Food: Strawberries and asparagus, yes, it’s spring

It is officially spring, the time of year when it feels cold and windy so you put a wintertime comfort food in the Crock-Pot and by dinner time the clouds are gone and it’s in the high 60s and you’re ready for a light spring meal.

Such is spring.

But whatever the weather, have you tasted the wonderful fresh asparagus and strawberries now in stores? Both of these signs of spring taste pretty darn good to me, and they go well together in some tasty dishes.

Speaking of asparagus ... did you know that asparagus plants aren’t ready to harvest until their third growing season? It also has been said that asparagus doesn’t reach peak production until its sixth season. I have no desire to raise this vegetable.But asparagus is considered a nutritionally balanced vegetable, containing just 20 calories per 5-ounce serving, along with potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C, B6, B9, glutathione and thiamin. It has no cholesterol or fat and is low in sodium.

A member of the lily family, no wonder asparagus is a must for Easter dinner or a brunch quiche. I like to toss asparagus with a little garlic flavored olive oil, kosher salt and roast at 450–500 degrees for a few minutes until crisp and tender. Chef Glenn Smith uses this same method.

And here’s a twist: Toss in some sliced almonds the last couple minutes in the oven, then toss with shredded fresh Parmesan cheese.

Steaming also is a good way to cook asparagus. Drop it into simmering water, leave for only a minute or two until it turns a bright green, then plunge in ice water. It’s good for salads, creamed on toast or baked potatoes.

Strawberry/Asparagus Salad

From http://www.calstraw.com.

6–8 cups dark salad greens

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 cups chilled/cooked tender crisp asparagus, sliced into 1 1/2-inch long pieces

1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds

11/2 cup chunks grilled salmon or chicken

Toss with either dressing No. 1 or 2 just before serving.

 

Dressing No. 1

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)

11/2–2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 teaspoon sugar

Shake ingredients together in jar. Toss with salad.

 

No. 2 Strawberry Dressing

Good with any salad greens, feta cheese, jicama and pecans.

1 cup California strawberries, stemmed

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine strawberries, juice, vinegar, oil, honey and salt in blender/processor. Pulse on/off to chunky consistency. Cover and refrigerate.

Dixie Asparagus Chicken Roll-Ups

Flattened chicken breast, cut into strips 1 1/2 inches wide and about 3–4 inches long

Orange/red/green bell peppers strips

Asparagus spears, cleaned and trimmed

Pepper and salt if desired

Place two asparagus spears, or three if thin, on one end of chicken strips, top with two or three pepper strips. Roll up; secure with toothpick.

Pan grill in nonstick skillet. Cook until chicken done and asparagus tender or ... bake at 350 degrees and watch carefully. Don’t overbake! Serve with Fresh Strawberry Salsa.

 

Fresh Strawberry Salsa

2 cups chopped strawberries

1/2 cup diced yellow or orange bell pepper

1/4 cup diced sweet onion (or to taste)

Jalapeno, finely minced, to taste

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro (or to taste)

Fresh lime juice and zest to taste

1–3 teaspoons sugar (to taste)

Pinch of salt

Toss and chill.

 

Dixie note: Jazz up a brown rice, risotto or Quinoa salad with roasted, grilled or sautéed asparagus, red bell pepper strips, sliced green onion, a touch of lemon juice and zest with a little olive oil. Delicious!


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