Abundance of asparagus is sure sign of spring’s arrival
TAHOE/TRUCKEE – When you see an abundance of fresh California-grown asparagus in the grocery store it is a sure sign spring has arrived! Succulent, tender, and delicious, asparagus spears have been prized for more than 2,000 years. The Romans were huge fans. They documented detailed growing instructions, and while they enjoyed eating asparagus in season, they also were the first to preserve it by freezing. Eating asparagus was credited with everything from curing toothaches and reducing swelling to being a reproductive tonic.
Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is a perennial plant that can produce a crop for 15-20 years. Asparagus is available in three different colors: green, white and purple. Green is the most common in the U.S., while white is more popular in Europe. White asparagus is grown by covering the shoots with dirt and allowing them to grow without being exposed to sunlight. Purple asparagus turns green when it cooks and has a slightly sweeter taste.
Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, Vitamin K and is a good source of fiber and protein. Asparagus is also a source of inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate that acts as a “prebiotic” which supports healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Celebrate spring by eating more asparagus! Choose firm, bright green spears with tightly closed tips. Asparagus lose water quickly so store them standing up in a container with about an inch of water and cover with a plastic bag. You can also wrap the ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag. Prepare asparagus by grilling, roasting, steaming or stir-frying. Serve them as a side dish or add to salads, omelets, pasta dishes, and stir-fries.
Christin Wilcox, the Chef at the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe in Kings Beach, has created this wonderful spring recipe highlighting fresh asparagus.
– Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Health Promotion Dietitian at Tahoe Forest Hospital. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parmesan Gnocchi with Asparagus and Red Pepper Walnut Relish
1 large russet potato
1 egg yolk
1⁄2-3⁄4 Cup Semolina or all-purpose flour
Pinch of sugar
1⁄2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
1⁄4 Cup parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
Steam or bake the potato whole, skin on (takes about 45 minutes). After the potato is cooked (can be easily pierced with a fork), peel the skin and place the potato in a bowl. While the potato is still hot, mash it well with a fork. Let the mashed potato sit for 4-5 min., until it is almost room temp. Next, add the egg yolk to the mashed potato and mix well with the fork. Add the sugar, salt, melted butter, and olive oil.
Transfer the mix to one of the baking sheets and knead in the parmesan cheese and 1⁄2 cup flour, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some of flour.
Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a 1⁄2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with tips of tines touching work surface. Working with 1 at a time, roll gnocchi down fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to baking sheets.
Add half of gnocchi to a pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to skillet with asparagus and butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to skillet as cooked.
Red Pepper and Walnut Relish Ingredients
1⁄4 Cup water
1⁄4 Cup sugar
1 whole red pepper, julienned
1⁄2 red onion – julienned
1 Thyme sprig
1 Bay leaf
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium low until the sugar dissolves.
Add the remaining ingredients and reduce by 40 percent.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
1⁄2 pound asparagus washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Heat 1 Tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and saute 1-2 minutes. Add the cooked gnocchi stirring to coat. Serve the gnocchi and asparagus with the relish on the side or on top. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Makes 4 main course servings.
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