As anyone who has been to one of my supper clubs or eaten at my house at this time of year, I am just a little obsessed with asparagus. Packed full of wonderful nutrients and super-healthy fibre (see http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/asparagood/ for more info), it’s one of my favourite vegetables that I try to eat as much as possible – but only when it’s in season. Fresh asparagus that has travelled thousands of miles in a aeroplane is too costly (for the environment). And is something as pleasurable if you can have it all the time?
Raw or cooked, asparagus hits the spot every time for me. Delicate, thin stalks with a satisfying snap can be nibbled straight from the pack, whereas thicker, more sturdy stems need a little attention, particularly if you want to avoid a mouthful of woody bottom! For the end of the stems where they’ve been cut are just too full of insoluble fibre, rather stringy for our mouths and digestive systems to deal with. You can trim them with a knife, but I tend to use the Jamie Oliver method of snapping off the ends with my hands – if you hold the stem with your fingers and sharply snap the ends down, they tend to naturally break where the woody ends and the digestible begins.
Sometimes I shave off thin strips of asparagus from thicker stems to include in a salad, but generally give them a very quick steam. Separating the stems and the delicate tips is essential to avoid over-cooking. Once the water is simmering in the pan, I pop the steamer basket with the stems over the top for a minute or so (depending on thickness), add the tips for another minute then whip the steaming basket away. Cooking will continue if the asparagus is left in the steaming basket, so unless they are being served straight away, it’s a good idea to tip them out onto a plate to release the heat.
Asparagus and tomatoes look gorgeous together. The colour of food in front of me contributes towards my enjoyment – red and green are complimentary colours on the colour wheel, so look rather gorgeous together. In the UK, our tasty home grown tomatoes are not available until much later in the year, way past asparagus season. Roasting at a lower heat helps to release some of the natural tomato sweetness, as well as activate some of the super-healthy phytonutrients held within, making this salad nutrient packed and absolutely delicious. If you’re in a hurry, prepare the tomatoes the day before if you have the oven on – they keep in the fridge just fine.
So why not give this a go whilst the asparagus season is upon us – your tastebuds and your tummy will love you for it!
Asparagus and slow roasted tomato salad
1 bag of spinach, rocket or watercress leaves (or a mixture of all)
1 bunch chunkier asparagus (about 250g)
1 ripe avocado peeled and chopped into chunks
300g pack cherry tomatoes
handful of sprouted seeds (like alfalfa)
dairy free parmesan cheese
Prepare the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 160ºc. Wash the tomatoes, cut in half and spread out on a non-stick baking tray. Place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes or so until the tomatoes are soft and slightly dried out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Wash and trim the asparagus. Separate the tips from the stems. Boil some water in the base of a steamer. Once it’s simmering nicely, pop the stems in the basket and steam for a minute or so. Add the tips, steam for another minute then remove the asparagus from the steamer and tip onto a place to cool.
Spread the salad leave over the bottom of a large dish then layer with asparagus and avocado, then arrange the roasted tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle sprouted seeds and dairy free parmesan (like this cashew parmesan recipe ) over the top and finish with a glug of flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil.