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Venture out of comfort zone; try some asparagus
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Yay for Spring! It’s officially the beginning of the arrival of fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

When pondering spring foods, it made me think about asparagus. I have to admit, I haven’t always been a fan of asparagus. Only in the past few years have I discovered the wonders of this beautiful green vegetable.

Asparagus is sweet, succulent and tender. It is also very versatile, lending itself to an assortment of many delightful dishes.

Besides being full of flavor, asparagus is an abundant source of nutrients, making it a “must have” for a healthy and balanced diet. It’s low in calories and sodium and contains no fat. It also supplies more folic acid than virtually any other vegetable and is an excellent source of potassium and vitamin B.  

So when you are picking your asparagus on the produce aisle of J&J, of course, look for a few things.

Be sure the bundles have firm spears whose tips are closed, plump and green. Shying away from dry and brown bunches.

Once you’ve made your pick, store the asparagus properly to keep it fresh and delicious. Wash it thoroughly, pat it dry and cut the hard end stems off.

At this point, you can do two things. One is to wrap a moist paper towel around the stems, put them in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Or two, stand them upright in a couple of inches of water in the refrigerator to ensure the freshest flavor. If stored properly, they will keep for 2 to 3 days. 

Ever thought about freezing asparagus? Undoubtedly, asparagus is the best fresh and in season. But freezing is certainly an option for enjoying the great flavor later in the year.

To freeze, wash the asparagus thoroughly and trim the woody ends either cutting or leaving the spears whole.

Next, blanch them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. To blanch asparagus, drop spears whole or cut into a large pot of simmering water and leave for 1-2 minutes if freezing. If blanching as a cooking method, leave them for a little longer, 3-4 minutes.

Then, drain the asparagus well and pack in plastic freezer bags or containers, trying not to leave excess air space. Asparagus can be frozen up to 8 months and doesn’t need to be defrosted before cooking.   

My favorite way of serving asparagus is by roasting then drizzling them with a little olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt. But right here is where the dilemma begins for our family.

We feel the great need to eat roasted asparagus with our fingers like French fries. I’m pretty sure this would not pass muster with the likes of Miss Manners. But if in our fair city it is a law to eat fried chicken with your fingers, I think we’ll just apply that to eating of asparagus as well. We try to be law abiding citizens after all. 

If you want to add a little punch to roasted asparagus, this recipe is amazing.

Roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter

  • 40 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Cooking spray, olive oil flavor recommended
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer on a baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 12 minutes or until tender.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally.

Remove from heat, stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus and toss well to coat.

Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Serve immediately.

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at crevolyn.wiley@jandjfoods.com.

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