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Posts tagged ‘quick recipes’

First to “SPRING” up: Asparagus!

white-green-purple asparagusWhen I think of Spring and especially May, my eyes light up and I’m transported back to all the times I spent in Germany during this special month. It’s special because the first asparagus tips have pushed through the soil and the first “Spargel” starts showing up on menus. You will find these tender (primarily white) tips served in an unbelievable variety of ways… with radicchio and Parma ham (one of my favorites), with strawberry sauce, in delicious, creamy soups, with potatoes and spices, with egg omelets, with fresh river trout, with homemade linguine  bacon and tomatoes, in crepes, in lasagna, in quiche, with a variety of meat dishes and simply topped with lovely, creamy, homemade Hollandaise sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is with all of these memories!

When you look for asparagus in the markets, you will find it in three distinctly different colors. So what is really the difference?

WHITE ASPARAGUS is white because it can’t get any light. This process is called etoliation. Dirt is mounded around the emerging stalks and the fields are also covered with light proof netting. No chlorophyll (which would make the plant green) develops to help the plant absorb light, because there isn’t any light, so the stalks remain white. Many plants that are grown using etoliation are small and weak, but in the case of asparagus, the white stalks are usually large and robust. They also develop a stiff outer coating that MUST be peeled in order to eat them. Try not peeling it once and you will see what I mean. The asparagus will be absolutely inedible. On second thought, trust me on this one and don’t waste this beautiful vegetable. The taste is a bit milder than green asparagus and the color can be very interesting when added to other dishes. You cook it just like green asparagus and it can be interchangeable in recipes.

GREEN ASPARAGUS, on the other hand, does not need to be peeled, with one exception. When the stalks are very large, I do peel it very thinly, using a peeler, just to remove the large “thorns”. The thorns will not prick your fingers, but when they get very large, they don’t taste that great and the texture can be unpleasant. With green asparagus, I prefer the tender, young stalks that only take a couple of minutes to steam and enjoy. The larger stems can have a very “woody” taste and are simply not as good.

PURPLE ASPARAGUS was cultivated from green asparagus. It is just as healthy, a little tenderer and has a slightly different taste than green asparagus. It needs to be steamed quickly or baked because its color fades when exposed to water. But again, it’s an interesting color addition to recipes.

All asparagus is also a GREAT diet food! It contains high levels folate and potassium as well as antioxidants that fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. To cook it, just steam it for a few minutes or until you can just get a fork through it. It’s easy to make and a good idea to get it into your diet!

Spring Asparagus Roll

Here’s a fun asparagus recipe that I did for MexAmerica Foods: Get the recipe at: http://mexamericarecipes.com/main-ingredient/eggs-sausage-bacon/spring-asparagus-roll-1827/

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Spiral to Beet Heaven!

What a presentation! As promised, last night I put two yellow beets through my spiral machine. The pile that emerged was huge – enough for four people to feel well satisfied. Each one got something like 125 grams or 80 calories of vegetable.  This time, I also sliced and cooked the greens in a little vegetable broth, then drained them and sprinkled them lightly with balsamic vinegar. One cup of greens gives you 39 more calories as well as some protein, Phosphorus, zinc, some fiber and vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6. Shall I go on? Add Thiamin, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. If you’re watching your sodium, you may not want to include them, but for the rest of us they make a lot of sense. The best part is that after you finish eating this huge portion you are full. Oh, that would be plus whatever calories were in the vegetable broth they retained, but that can’t be much. If I can fill up on 119+ calories, I’m going for it!

Just because it’s diet food doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. So here’s what the spiral machine looks like. I bought this one in Germany ages ago, but now you can find them online.  Whatever you put through there comes out looking like colored spaghetti. Another favorite way I use it is for cucumber. A little pile of cucumber “noodles” dressed with a light vinaigrette – or nothing at all – makes for a lot of interest. Many people won’t even be able to figure out what it is. If we have to diet, let’s at least make it fun.

The Royal Beet

I know many of you think you don’t like beets, but have you tried the yellow ones?

They’re milder, don’t stain your fingers when you peel them and they add a brilliant yellow color to your plate presentation. To me, they are absolutely delicious with nothing on them – not even salt and pepper and especially not butter. They’re wonderful as a warm side or cold as a salad ingredient or topping. Best of all, they’re chock full of vitamins and minerals – especially touted as being excellent for your heart – but 100 grams contains only 45 calories, no cholesterol and almost 3 grams of fiber – the perfect diet food!

I used to hate cooking beets. When we only had the red ones, I found the preparation messy, the cooking time long and they would always add insult to injury by leaking their natural red dye all over the other food on the plate. All of those issues are solved now. The yellow ones are no worse to peel than a potato. Unpeeled, they keep for a long time in the refrigerator. Cooked, you can keep them and enjoy them for up to 7 days.

And cooking them is what I really came here to talk about today. One of the reasons I like to go to restaurants is to soak up cooking and presentation ideas from other chefs. For me, it’s the best way to shake off a rut because as usual, two heads are better than one! Recently, I saw a beet presentation that I loved. As pictured above, they were cut into julienne strips and then steamed. The resulting mound was prettier than layering sliced beets on a plate and get this – when I tried it at home, the steaming time (from the time the water started to boil) was only ten minutes! Eureka! This will be my new beet method until I find another one… which might be putting them through a spiral machine, which would decrease the cooking time even more. Stay tuned on that one. I’ll try it tonight.

By the way, the other side prepared in the Flavor Secrets kitchen last night was the leftover cauliflower from my last post. I mixed the purée with some chopped red onion sautéed with a minimum amount of oil. It spiced it up enough to make it different. We ate that with a baked chicken breast (dipped in egg, sprinkled with 1 Tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and baked for about 30 minutes at 375F.

Total calories: About 400. AWESOME.

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