Simple, Healthy & Delicious Cooking with Carmelo: Asparagus

Simple, Healthy & Delicious Cooking with Carmelo: Asparagus

My one caution about asparagus is not to overcook it, and that’s a pretty universal sentiment.  Even going back to Rome, the Emperor Augustus is said to have dispatched an order to be completed in “less time than it takes to cook asparagus.”  Here are a few ideas for you.

Grilled Asparagus

I love to grill or put asparagus under the broiler. It’s simple, quick and delicious.

Directions

  • Preheat grill or broiler for high heat.
  • Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Grill over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or to desired tenderness. Rotate after about a minute or so. Stay with this dish – it can burn or be over done in minutes…Olive oil tends to flame and flare up when used in grilling so I find it best to grill the asparagus after the meat is off and resting when the heat temperature is lower.
  • Remove and serve.

Asparagus Stir Fry

Another way I do asparagus is to cut asparagus in 2-3 inch pieces on the diagonal, blanch the spears, and then stir fry them. I like to add contrasting colors to my dishes so carrots or red bell peppers would go well.

Use sliced onions as a base and sauté them with our olive oil until very tender. Slice the red bells very thin or if you are using carrots use a vegetable peeler to get very thin slices. Slice these carrot strips again lengthwise and sauté with the onion. Then toss in the asparagus and cook about 2-3 minutes

If you are doing a meat stir fry with asparagus cut your meat into thin strips season and sauté alone until done. Remove from skillet.

Now sauté your onions, when done add asparagus and meat. Work for 2-3 minutes until done. You can add a bit of thinly sliced ginger and soy sauce, too. Serve this over a whole grain rice or mix with any healthy Asian noodle (Udon, Soba, Mung Bean, Shirataki).

Asparagus for any Dish

Once you have prepared asparagus on hand, you can use it in a number of ways. Plus, it’ll keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, so prepare a bunch or two at the beginning of the week so you’re able to grab & go.

Directions: Boil asparagus for a couple of minutes then immediately submerge into an ice bath. This stops the cooking immediately, leaves the nutrients in, keeps the beautiful green color in the asparagus and helps prevent overcooking to the mushy state…nobody like mushy asparagus!

Asparagus prepared this way can be use in salads, future meals, healthy snacks and for the meal at hand. Here are a couple simple ways to prepare cooked asparagus for any dish.

Asparagus with Caramelized Shallots and Roasted Red Peppers

This asparagus side dish will cook up in minutes.

In a large sauté pan, caramelize sliced shallots, seasoned with salt & pepper, in Sigona’s Fresh Press olive oil over medium low heat, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add julienned roasted red peppers (we have some very good roasted red peppers in the jar at Redwood City).

Diagonally cut the asparagus (it looks better cut that way) and incorporate into the shallot mixture. Work for a minute or two over medium high heat melding all the flavors until asparagus is heated.

Serve as a side to a steak or chicken dish. Or follow the directions below for an easy stir fry.

Asparagus Stir Fry

For this dish, boil the asparagus a little less because it’ll be in the skillet a little longer and we want them still crispy not mushy.

For an asparagus/protein stir fry I like to sauté up a whole onion and let the sugars really come out but not to the caramelized state (I always season onion/shallots as soon as they hit the skillet). Next, incorporate some very thinly sliced grass-fed beef, season, work well in the pan and then add a touch of beef stock to “knock down” any caramelization in the sauce pan for a great flavor and to prevent sticking. Lastly, diagonally slice the asparagus from the ice bath and then add it to the pan to work all the flavors together.

If you would like a sauce, remove all ingredients from the pan when cooked and add chicken broth and a little thickener (arrow root, barley flour, corn starch). On a high flame work the sauce until it begins to thicken up reintroduce the ingredients to the sauce for a quick stir and mix.

Serve this dish over brown rice or any other favorite whole grain.

Roasted Asparagus

Our Fresh Press Arbequina extra virgin olive oil will go beautifully with roasted asparagus.

Spread out the asparagus spears on a cookie sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, then work ingredients over the asparagus with you hands.

Place the sheet in a preheated oven @ 475F go about 4 minutes. Rotate the asparagus and then roast for another 4 minutes. Don’t over cook…Asparagus should still be slightly firm…use less time if using thin asparagus.

Fresh Asparagus salad with a Sweet Balsamic Reduction

Asparagus goes well with the flavors of Dijon mustard. If you look up vinaigrette for anything with asparagus, you can bet Dijon will be a star ingredients. Asparagus and balsamic also play well together so this is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2-3 TBL Sigona’s traditional balsamic, 12 year aged
  • 1/2 TBL Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh basil leaf, julienned
  • 2 TBL Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil (we suggest our California Arbequina)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (bake in a single layer at 350F for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned)

Boil asparagus for a couple of minutes then immediately submerge into an ice bath. Once cool, remove asparagus and dry with a paper towel. Then cut into thirds, diagonally, and place on a serving platter.

While the asparagus cools, pour balsamic into a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and cook to reduce by half. This can happen quickly, so keep an eye on it. Once reduced, pour it into a small mixing bowl.

To the balsamic add Dijon, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Then, while whisking, add the olive oil to emulsify the mixture.

Drizzle the balsamic mixture over the asparagus, toss to coat, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

It’s asparagus season and we also have in some fantastic new olive oils make a nice match. My new favorite is the Nocellara olive oil from Belize, Italy. It has a very smooth and slightly fruity/buttery front with a long, mild pepper finish. It’s a great one for pastas. Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. uncooked or fresh pasta (such as cavatappi or another spiral shape)
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 TBL pine nuts (toast them for more flavor, see back)
  • 2 oz. pancetta, diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon (save the peel and grate a bit on top of the finished dish)
  • 2 tsp. Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil (The Nocellara, of course)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 3 TBL)

Directions:

1.       Preheat oven to 400°.

2.       Cook pasta according to package directions, add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

3.       Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

4.       Increase oven temperature to 475°.

5.       Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 6 minutes or until crisp.

6.       Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, cheese and lemon zest.

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