Archive | Local Produce RSS feed for this section

Asparagus! Food of Kings

23 Mar

At the local farmers markets here in San Diego, I am finding the biggest tastiest asparagus!  Normally I just grill it and eat it as a side or as a salad topper. But I have recently been trying new recipes and I found a cool one, Asparagus Avocado
Salad!  Try it and you won’t be disappointed.

The history of asparagus is pretty darn interesting.  About 20,000 years ago, asparagus was eaten near Aswan in Egypt. It has been used as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavor, diuretic properties, and more. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC.  Still in ancient times, it was known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter; Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus reserved the Asparagus Fleet for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action. There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.

Al-Nafzawi’s The Perfumed Garden celebrates its aphrodisiacal power, which the Indian Ananga Ranga attributes to special phosporus elements that also counteract fatigue, and by 1469 it was cultivated in French monasteries.

Asparagus is often called the “Food of Kings.”  France’s Louis XIV had special greenhouses built for growing it.  The finest texture and the strongest and yet delicate taste is in the tips. The points d’amour (“love tips”) were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour.  

The asparagus growing beds in Northern Italy were famous during the Renaissance period. These graceful spears have always been a sign of elegance, and in times past, were a delicacy only the wealthy could afford.

I didn’t know veggies could be considered posh! Enjoy your food of kings my friends.

Asparagus and Avocado Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 4 or 5 thick asparagus spears
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 16 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of fluer de sel (or fine sea salt) per serving

Cut away about 2 inches of the base of each asparagus spear. With a vegetable peeler, shave the entire asparagus from bottom to top, reversing your grip and rotating as necessary to shave as much as possible. Don’t rush it; be deliberate for the greatest precision.

Divide the asparagus strips among 4 salad plates. Cut each avocado half into 4 sections and place 2 wedges on each salad. Sprinkle with the mint leaves. Squeeze lime juice over the salads, drizzle evenly with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.

Thanks to epicurious.com for this recipe 

 

Advertisements

Feed Your Heart

14 Feb

On Valentine’s Day, I suggest you love your heart.  Regardless of your relationship status you can spoil your ticker today and feel great about it.  What better way to show your heart you care than to eat something healthy for it?  Below you will find what your heart needs and where to get it.  Wishing you and your heart a very happy Valentine’s Day.

1. Potassium “High blood pressure is perhaps the single greatest contributor to the development of heart disease,” says Kulze. Scientists agree that a diet high in the essential mineral potassium is associated with lower blood pressure levels. Potassium lowers blood pressure by countering the effect of excess sodium and by aiding in the transmission of nerve impulses and promoting normal muscle function, both of which are vital for optimal heart and blood vessel function, explains Kulze.
Find it in: Potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, prunes, soybeans, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, avocado, almonds

2. Carotenoids Thanks to their fat solubility and potent antioxidant properties, these plant chemicals (which give fruits and veggies their red, yellow, and orange hues) are a major force in the fight against heart disease. Evidence suggests they interact with bad LDL cholesterol, preventing it from oxidizing and sticking to artery walls. According to a study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with higher levels of carotenoids in their blood had a 34 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Find them in: Watermelon, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers

3. Flavonoids Both oxidation and inflammation are involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. “But thanks to their potent antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activity, flavonoids pack a powerful one-two punch against heart disease,” says Kulze. In particular, this large class of plant chemicals keeps the lining of the arteries (endothelial cells) flexible, which improves blood flow and reduces blood clotting. In a 2001 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, researchers reported that a 7.5-milligram increase in catechin (the flavonoid compounds found in tea and cocoa) intake resulted in a 20 percent reduction in heart disease mortality risk.
Find them in: Cocoa, dark chocolate, green tea, red wine, extra virgin olive oil, pomegranates, apples

4. Soluble fiber According to a 19-year survey that examined the effects of fiber intake on heart attacks in about 10,000 adults, those who ingested the most soluble fiber had a 12 percent reduction in coronary heart disease events. So what gives soluble fiber its heart-healthy properties? “It combines with water in the GI tract to form a gelatinous mass that ‘sponges up’ cholesterol, diminishing its absorption and escorting it out of the body,” Kulze explains. “It also slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrate foods, giving rise to lower and more stable blood glucose and insulin levels, which has favorable effects on metabolism and arterial health.”
Find it in: Whole grains such as oats and barley; beans; okra; Brussels sprouts

5. Omega-3 fatty acids Research continues to confirm that omega- 3 fatty acids, a class of polyunsaturated fats, play a key role in heart health. “Omega-3s give rise to anti-inflammatory molecules known as resolvins and protectins, both of which ward off blood clots that can trigger stroke and heart attack,” explains organic chemist Shane Ellison, author of The Hidden Truth about Cholesterol Lowering Drugs. Also, in a 2005 Brazilian report that reviewed 159 studies of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fibers, and phytosterols on heart health, scientists established that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease. Researchers also found that they increase good HDL cholesterol, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and author of The Flexitarian Diet.
Find them in: Flaxseed; flax oil; walnuts; soy; canola oil; small, dark leafy greens such as watercress, arugula, purslane

6. B vitamins (folate, B6) Elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood, are associated with risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. B vitamins folate and B6 work in concert to metabolize or break down homocysteine. Harvard’s famous nurses’ health study showed a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in women who regularly used multivitamins (a major source of folic acid and vitamin B6) and also in those with high dietary intake of vitamin B6 and folic acid. In another study, reported in the journal Circulation, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio found a link between low blood levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid and an increased risk of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
Find them in: Fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, bananas, sunflower seeds

Thanks to Vegetarian Times for providing this info.

Where’s the Meat?

12 Jan

Do you want to strengthen your immune system?  Then load up on your antioxidants!  It is a known fact that adding more fruit and veggies to your diet will improve your health,  but some foods are higher in antioxidants than others.  The 3 major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.  You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hues. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed (blanch); don’t overcook or boil.

So, why shouldn’t you over-steam or boil your veggies?  The enzymes and nutrients in your vegetables are destroyed when they reach 100 degrees, so you are not getting the most out of your veggies. Steaming can release just as many nutrients as boiling, the water will still absorb just as many vitamins and minerals. Have you ever steamed a green vegetable only to find that your water is green?

Blanching your vegetables is a good way to ensure you keep your vegetables crisp, bright in color, and full of nutrients. Blanching is very different than boiling. Your vegetables are placed in simmering salted water for about a minute. This is a method of flash cooking that barely cooks your vegetables.

Below is a nifty table with photos of some of the major antioxidant food sources.  Where is the meat on this chart?  When discussing how to improve health, I don’t ever hear that we need to incorporate more beef.  As I mentioned earlier, we all know more fruits and vegetables are what we need to be healthier.

Berries

11 Jan

I found the most beautiful berries at my local farmers market.   Makes you wanna go to your farmers market this weekend, huh?

Just had to share.  Click the photo for a larger version.

%d bloggers like this: