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It's spring! You know what that means - perfect baby stalks of asparagus are in your grocery store, excruciatingly fresh, and for once, reasonably priced!
Asparagus hollers "Springtime!" - while it murmurs "Luxury and elegance." It's delicious, quick and easy to prepare, and takes to all sorts of easy variations. And, I'm pleased to tell you, asparagus is also one of the very lowest carb vegetables. A half-pound of asparagus - a fabulously generous serving - contains only 5 grams of carbohydrate, of which 2 grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3 grams. This is one indulgence we can all afford to make more often!
Asparagus is plenty nutritious, too. It's a good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, and a particularly good source of folic acid. Asparagus also has plenty of potassium.
Knowing this, isn't it time for a low carb asparagus feast? Choose asparagus that is very fresh, with no shriveled stalks, and the tips tightly closed. If you're not planning to eat your asparagus right away, wrap it well, and serve within a day or two.
To trim asparagus, simply snap the bottom off each spear where it wants to break naturally. I don't bother taking off the scales, but if you want to you can use a potato peeler to do this. Your asparagus is now ready to cook.
How to cook asparagus? Quickly. Most vegetables suffer from overcooking, but asparagus, in particular, loses its charm when it becomes limp. I like to microwave my asparagus - I put it in a microwaveable container with a lid, add just a tablespoon or two of water, cover the container, and nuke on "high" for just 5 minutes. Once the microwave beeps, uncover your asparagus right away! Otherwise it will continue to cook, and be gray and mushy.
You can cook your asparagus on the stove top, of course. The classic way to do this is to stand the asparagus on end in a deep, narrow pot, with the bases of the stalks in just a couple of inches of water. Cover the whole thing tightly, place on high heat, and once the water boils, cook it for just 5 to 7 minutes - once again, uncover it as soon as the cooking time is up.
Using this method, the tender tips of the asparagus steam, while the tougher bases of the stalks boil. You can buy tall, narrow asparagus pots, but a great substitute is available cheap at yard sales and thrift shops: Buy an old stove-top coffee perker, and remove the guts, for an admirable asparagus pot!
It may amuse you to know that the proper way to eat whole asparagus spears is with your fingers - even Miss Manners says so. You can dip your asparagus in lemon butter, hollandaise sauce, or aioli (garlic mayonnaise), all of which are very low carb. Cooked asparagus is also wonderful chilled - try dipping it in chipotle mayonnaise: Just put 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in your food processor with one chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce, and process till smooth. This is enough for 4 people, and will add only trace amounts of carb to your asparagus.
I've recently started grilling asparagus, and it's becoming a favorite. You can do it on your gas or charcoal grill, of course. You'll want a small-holed grill rack to keep it from falling through, or you can make asparagus "rafts" by skewering 4 to 6 spears side by side, with a well-soaked bamboo skewer through either end. You can also grill asparagus in your electric tabletop grill, though, and it's wonderful. Here's a new grilled asparagus recipe I came up with just the other day:
Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar
1 pound asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat your electric tabletop grill. Snap the ends off the asparagus where they break naturally. Put them on a plate, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss the asparagus a bit, to make sure it's all coated with the oil.
Place the asparagus on your electric grill -- you'll probably have to do it in two batches, unless your grill is a lot bigger than mine. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
If you've had to do two batches, put the first batch on a plate and cover it with a pot lid to keep it warm while the second batch cooks. When all the asparagus is done, and all on the plate, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Roll it about to coat it, then top it with the Parmesan, and serve.
2 generous servings, each with 184 Calories; 16g Fat; 6g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber, and 5 g. usable carbohydrate.
(Reprinted by permission, from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, copyright 2005 Fair Winds Press)Posted by HoldTheToast at February 28, 2006 07:39 PM