Salmon and Asparagus Salad
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is low in calories and provides substantial amounts of two antioxidants: Vitamin A and C. It truly shines as a source of folate and has a goodly amount of fiber.
(Serving size, 1/2 cup cooked)
- Calories 90
- Protein 2 grams
- Carbohydrates 4 grams
- Dietary Fiber 1.5 grams
- Potassium 144 mg
- Vitamin C 10 mg
- Folate 131 mcg
- Vitamin A 485 IU
Preparation and Serving
Cook asparagus as soon as possible to ensure peak flavor. Spears start to lose flavor and moisture as soon as they are harvested. For this reason, imported asparagus, while still good, tends to lack flavor, making home grown Michigan and Illinois spring crops most desirable.
To prepare, wash under cool running water and trim an inch from the stem end. Use a vegetable peeler to peel an inch or two off the bottom end, if desired. The peelings can be added to the cooking water which, can be refrigerated and reused. The water becomes quite flavorful and is excellent in stock and soup.
Peeling asparagus can be tedious and many cooks prefer breaking the tough ends. To use this method, hold the top half of an asparagus spear in one hand and the bottom half between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Bend each spear until it snaps in two pieces. The spears will naturally break where the tender part meets the tough end. Although this method produces a lot of waste, the tougher bottoms can be saved for soup or stock, if desired.
Asparagus can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or incorporated into casseroles and salads. Tall narrow asparagus kettles are designed to cook the spears upright, immersing the stems while the tender heads steam. It is not necessary to purchase an asparagus kettle in order to cook asparagus properly. The key to perfectly cooked asparagus is "cook it briefly."
The flavor of asparagus marries well with many ingredients and it is equally delicious dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Raw asparagus is also tasty served as crudités with a flavorful dipping sauce. When using asparagus as a salad, always wait until serving time to add the dressing as the high acid content of most dressings will turn the spears yellow. Add fresh chives, savory, thyme, and tarragon to enhance the flavor of cooked asparagus.
The best home preservation method to use for asparagus is freezing.
- Select young tender spears. Wash thoroughly and sort into like sizes.
- Trim ends and peel or use the "break method" described above. Cut spears into even lengths to fit freezer bags or freezer containers.
- Water blanch small spears 2 minutes, medium spears 3 minutes and large spears 4 minutes.
- Remove from blanching water and immediately immerse in ice water for 5 minutes to cool. Drain slightly.
- Package, leaving no headspace, seal, label, date and freeze at zero degrees or below for up to one year.