- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Signal of spring

Asparagus not only is a pleasant and affordable harbinger of better weather, but it also does great things for a healthy diet.

Asparagus is extremely low in calories and packed with vitamins. Choose stalks with dry, tight tips and firm, unwrinkled stalks. Fat stalks don’t necessarily mean tough asparagus, for older plants produce thicker spears, but they can be just as tender and flavorful.

Select spears that have a uniform thickness so they cook at the same rate.

Asparagus loses its vitamins and sugars quickly when left at room temperature and is best eaten the day it is bought. To keep asparagus longer, treat it like a bouquet of flowers by cutting off a bit of the woody base and standing the bunch in an inch of water in a container in the refrigerator.

To preserve nutrients and flavor, don’t boil asparagus. Steam the stalks for 5 minutes. Other options are to grill them for 2 minutes per side, stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or microwave in a covered, vented container with 1/4 cup of water on high for 4 to 6 minutes. Cooking asparagus at high heat in the oven concentrates its flavors and yields stalks that are delicately wilted and beautifully browned.

This recipe for roasted asparagus with spring onions and sun-dried tomatoes has only a small amount of added fat, which comes from the flavorful oil the tomatoes are packed in.

Roasted asparagus with spring onions and sun-dried tomatoes

Makes 4 servings.

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, bottoms trimmed

2 bunches scallions, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, plus 1 tablespoon of oil from the jar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus and scallions with the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Transfer to a baking sheet and arrange in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 7 minutes. Stir the vegetables and roast until tender and slightly browned, about another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and toss to combine. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


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