Conscious Cook: Savor spring with grilled asparagus

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love.” —Sitting Bull

What could be more alluring then the fresh, delectable flavors and gorgeous colors of Spring? The heady fragrance of freshly snipped herbs, the tender texture of garden-fresh baby lettuces, and other native produce create a palette of perfection in the spring kitchen.

The true seductress of Spring must surely be the almighty asparagus. This glorious gift to gardens is so revered, so highly anticipated, that certain gardeners have been known to postpone vacation plans in order to fully partake of the asparagus harvest.

Asparagus has captivated conscious cooks since ancient times, when the Egyptians offered it up to their gods in certain rituals, as well as utilizing its’ naturally nourishing properties for medicinal purposes. Long considered an effective aphrodisiac, legend tells of an Arabian love manual written in the 16th Century, providing asparagus recipes purported to stimulate erotic desire.

Serving asparagus to your loved one will provide them with a low fat, low calorie, food filled with both soluble and insoluble fiber. The body digests fiber slowly, which helps keep you full longer. Serving asparagus with eggs is a poetic combination of fiber and protein, that is both visually stimulating and satiating. Fresh spring asparagus, lightly steamed and served on buttered toast, topped with a poached egg, is an elegant choice for a spring breakfast or supper.

A natural diuretic, asparagus may be quite effective at flushing out excess fluids and salt, while reducing belly bloat. If a spring celebration involves a bit too much alcohol, eating asparagus, with its powerful minerals and amino acids may help ease a hangover.

During the all too brief season when fresh asparagus is available in New England, enjoy this captivating crop with every meal. A salad of raw asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and shavings of parmesan cheese is a superb starter for a special occasion lunch. Roast or grill thicker, fatter, spears, then season with a generous grinding of fresh black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of lemon zest, and serve alongside chicken or fish. Add sautéed asparagus to grain salads or wrap with prosciutto for a sensationtional spring hors d’oeuvre.

Spring asparagus should be consumed quickly after buying or harvesting, but should there be a delay of a day or two before imbibing, store your spears standing up in a glass of water to preserve freshness.

Prepare a delicious life with luscious spring asparagus!

Grilled Asparagus Salad

Serves 4

1 pound fresh spring asparagus (the fattest stalks you can find. Wash well and trim a bit off the bottom)

4 tablespoons grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, cut in half

Lemon zest (from another lemon)

1 ball of burrata cheese (optional or substitute 1 cup of fresh mozzarella, or feta)

2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Toss asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a grill that has been preheated to high heat and cook the spears, rolling them to achieve an even char and cook until just barely tender. Spear with a fork after 4 minutes and if it yields easily, remove from the grill. Grill the lemon halves until charred, cut side down. Arrange asparagus on a platter, add cheese if using. Squeeze grilled lemon halves over all, and sprinkle with lemon zest, basil and pine nuts if using. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook.” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.