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The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise

On the Highest Perch



Can You Pass the Asparagus Test?



Includes Recipes Below

This month On the Highest Perch is presenting Vegetarians in Paradise's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The category for questions is about Asparagus. If you answer the questions correctly and eat lots of asparagus, we can't give you a million dollars, but we can assure you that you'll be much healthier.


  1. Where was asparagus first grown?
  2. What do asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, and yucca have in common?
  3. What famous king had gardeners grow asparagus in greenhouses so he could eat asparagus year round?
  4. What state grows most of the asparagus in the United States?
  5. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed asparagus had what medicinal qualities?
  6. What kind of climate is best for asparagus?
  7. What are the two main varieties of asparagus?
  8. What civilization cultivated asparagus as an offering to the gods?
  9. In what section of this country was asparagus first grown?
  10. The word "asparagus" is derived from what language? What does it mean in that language?
  11. Does asparagus have aphrodisiac qualities?


Answers

  1. No one knows for sure. We do know it existed in the Mediterranean area in ancient times.
  2. They are all in the lily family.
  3. Louis XIV of France
  4. California.
  5. Helped to prevent bee stings and relieve toothaches.
  6. One where the ground freezes in winter to a depth of two inches or more.
  7. Green and white.
  8. Egyptian.
  9. New England
  10. Greek word meaning "sprout" or "shoot."
  11. All through history asparagus has been trumpeted as an aphrodisiac. A 16th century Arabian love manual gave an asparagus recipe to create a stimulant for amorous desires. In 18th Century France Madame Pompadour had her asparagus concoction for sexual vigor. In his book Food, contemporary writer Waverley Root devotes a section to the sex life of the asparagus.


What are the nutritional attributes of asparagus?

You can enjoy asparagus to the max and not have to worry about excessive calorie intake. For example, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of raw asparagus has only 15 calories, while the same quantity cooked contains 22 calories. That same 1/2 cup (120 ml) of raw asparagus provides 2.1 grams of protein, cooked offers 2.9 grams, slightly higher. Fiber is not asparagus's high point, offering only 1.41 grams of dietary fiber for that 1/2 cup (120 ml) of raw spears and tips; however, vitamin A, folacin, and potassium are its main attributes, along with trace amounts of B vitamins, copper, and zinc.

SHOPPING
From February through June farmers' markets frequently offer asparagus in a selection of thin, medium, and thick spears, while supermarkets sell whatever they get the best buy on. Select spears that are full, green and smooth looking. Avoid those that have a dry, shriveled appearance as these will have lost flavor and nutrients. Serve asparagus soon after purchase to get the best flavor and health benefits.

Asparagus RAW
Enjoy the sweetness of the fresh spears with a minimum of preparation. Simply wash them, and snap off the tough white portion, retaining as much of the green spear as possible.

Chop, dice, julienne, or shred the asparagus and add to a salad.

Angle cut the spears and create a special salad adding chopped red bell pepper, diced red onion, and dress with a light vinaigrette of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and a touch of sea salt.

Create a raw blender soup with fresh asparagus, avocado, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, and white miso.

Cut asparagus into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and put into a bowl. Add some thinly sliced onion, and marinate in the refrigerator using apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

STEAMED
In Europe it is traditional to peel the asparagus. Valuable nutrients are lost when the peel is discarded. Simply wash, break off the tips, and lay the whole spears in a saucepan. Add about 1/2-inch (1 cm) of water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn heat down to low, and steam 4 to 6 minutes.

STIR FRY
Stir frying is an Oriental style of cooking that makes for a quick and easy way to serve asparagus. Angle cut the spears and stir fry in a little olive oil and chopped garlic.

ROASTING
Heat the oven to 375 F (Gas Mark 5). Wash asparagus and snap off the tough white portion. Dry the spears and toss in a little olive oil to coat them. Lay the spears out on a baking pan, and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning several times.

BARBECUEING
When you get the urge to fire up the barbecue, prepare the asparagus as for roasting and put them right on the grill, turning very frequently. They will cook in about 6 to 12 minutes depending on your preference for a crunchy or soft texture.

Enjoy this easy asparagus recipe that provides a quick lunch dish or a light dinner treat.

Lemon Dill Silken Sauce is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

ASPARAGUS ON TOAST

Yield: 3 servings

1 1/2 pounds (680g) fresh asparagus, thick or thin spears
1 recipe Lemon Dill Silken Sauce
3 pieces whole grain toast
2 tomatoes, sliced

  1. Wash the asparagus and break off the tough white portion, retaining as much of the green spears as possible.
  2. Lay the asparagus in a saucepan or stand them up in an asparagus steamer (if you have one), cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn the heat down and steam about 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Prepare the Lemon Dill Silken Sauce.
  4. Place 1 slice of toast on each of 3 plates, and spread with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Top with tomato slices, and arrange the steamed asparagus over the tomatoes. Top with an additional 2 tablespoons Lemon Dill Silken Sauce, and serve the remainder of the sauce at the table. Serve with knives.

LEMON DILL SILKEN SAUCE

Yield: about 1 cup (240 ml)

1 12-ounce (340g) box soft silken tofu
1 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill weed, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in the blender or food processor, and process for about 1 minute, or until smooth. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator Lemon Dill Silken Sauce will keep for five days.


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