Asparagus is a sure sign that spring is right around the corner. The muted color of root veggies is replaced with bunches of bright green asparagus that you can’t help but notice. You have no idea what you will do with them, but you pick up a few bunches because you want that color in your fridge. Here are three simple ways to prepare one of spring’s most vibrant veggies.
Minty Asparagus Spinach Salad with Toasted Walnuts
Eating raw asparagus is one of the best ways to eat it. You just have to do it right. Take a half of a bunch of asparagus and peel it into thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Place some fresh spinach in a large salad bowl and top it with radish rounds, chopped mint, and the asparagus strips. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salad and top with toasted walnuts and salt and pepper.
Asparagus Soup with Leeks
You won’t believe how easy this is. And when the first taste of velvety soup reaches your tongue, you will be hooked, making this a spring staple for years to come.
Take 1 large bunch of asparagus and cut an inch from the ends. Cut the remaining asparagus into thirds. Chop the bottom white portions of two leeks into thin rounds, making sure to clean any dirt in between the layers. Heat some olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the leeks, a few cloves of chopped garlic, and some lemon zest for several minutes. Add the asparagus and 3 cups of veggie broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes—unless using an immersion blender—and then blend it until creamy and smooth. (If you try to blend the soup before it cools, the pressure from the heat will make a soup explosion from the top of your blender.) Serve with lots of cracked pepper on top.
Roasted Balsamic Asparagus
Few things are easier in the kitchen than this. Take 1 bunch of asparagus and lay it flat on a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, chopped garlic, and a touch of sea salt, and pour it over the asparagus. Top with a few generous turns of cracked black pepper and bake it at 350° for 15 minutes. This is the perfect side for any spring brunch.
There are lots of benefits to cooking your own beans. Freshly cooked beans have a better taste and texture; they’re cheaper to buy; and often they’re easier to digest. Also, many canned bean manufacturers use BPA (bisphenol A) lining in their cans.
There are a few basic steps before you get to cooking. Most beans are easier to digest and cook faster if you soak them in water for at least eight hours. The beans will expand up to three times in size as they soak, so make sure you cover them with plenty of water. After eight hours, drain the water from the beans and rinse well.
Add the beans to a large pot and add enough water to cover them by at least a few inches. Bring them to a boil, turn down the heat, and bring to a hard simmer. Cook the beans until they are totally soft. Place a lid over the pot at an angle so the water doesn’t evaporate as fast. If the water evaporates before they are soft, add more water. You can also add kombu or kelp to your beans as they are cooking. This will add minerals and make them even easier to digest. Do not add salt or any acidic ingredient, which will make the beans harder to cook and digest.
Here are the cooking times for some of the most common beans.
|Need Soaking?||Cooking Time|
|Anasazi Beans||Yes||1½ hours|
|Tepary Bean||Yes||1½ hours|
|Black-Eyed Peas||Yes||1 hour|
|Black Beans||Yes||1-1½ hours|
|Garbanzo Beans||Yes||1½-2 hours|
|Pinto Beans||Yes||1½-2 hours|
|Split Peas||No||30-50 minutes|
Store cooked beans in your fridge for up to four days, or freeze them so you always have some on hand.
Tossing out produce because you didn’t eat it in time is the worst. With these simple tweaks, your produce will stay fresh and yummy until you get to it. No tossing out required.
Greens: The most important thing to remember when storing greens is that they should not be damp or wet when being stored. If there is moisture on the greens, they will become slimy within a day or two of bringing them home.
When you first bring your greens home, soak them in a bowl of water and hydrate for 5-10 minutes. Take them out of the water and spin them in a salad spinner until they are dry. Place them in a plastic bag and make sure there is a little air in the bag and then tie the bag closed. Alternatively, you can store them in plastic or glass containers; put them front and center in your fridge so you don’t forget about them.
Fruits: Store lemons and other citrus on a counter out of direct sunlight to give them the most shelf life. Take strawberries out of the package and place them on a paper towel in a container with a lid. Only when you’re ready to eat them should they be washed. If you store them after you wash them, the bottom berries will become mushy and slimy because of the moisture.
Asparagus: Cut an inch off from the bottom, place a rubber band around the bunch, and set them in a container in an inch or two of water. Place a plastic bag loosely around the asparagus and tuck it under the container. Place in the fridge.
Carrots: Cut the greens off from the top of the carrots. Place the carrots in plastic and store in the fridge. Wash just before eating.
Celery: Place the root end of the celery in a dry paper towel and place the celery in a plastic bag. ✜
Molly Patrick blogs at CleanFoodDirtyGirl.com. She received a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.