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April, 2010

Simple Sides - Asparagus

By Dennis Linden

This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children working together under the supervision of an adult with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child’s can contribute to the family meal
.

Cooking with the Kids Image
Many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home cooked meal together, it is not impossible and, with a little planning, can even be fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever
.

Asparagus is a tasty and affordable spring vegetable that is also extremely low in calories and packed with vitamins. The width of the stalks is a matter of preference and not proportional to toughness, as thicker spears can be just as tender and flavorful as thin ones. It is more important to select spears that have a uniform thickness so they cook at the same rate. Asparagus loses its vitamins and sugars quickly, so is best when eaten the day it is purchased. To keep asparagus for 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, never boil asparagus. Cooking asparagus at high heat in the oven concentrates its flavors, seals in nutrients and gives each stalk an attractive, slightly browned tinge and tender texture.

The two roasted asparagus recipes provided in this article include both a fun way to serve each, as well as two completely different flavor directions for the whole family to enjoy, and may provide parents with a direction for the main entrée. During the baking process, warm balsamic vinegar infuses a pleasant sweetness into the asparagus that is wonderfully balanced by the lemon and pepper. The simplicity of baked, Parmesan-sprinkled asparagus enveloped in an olive oil-coated eggroll wrapper belies the resulting flavor; your young crew should make plenty for seconds and thirds!

Of course part of any asparagus preparation is the delectable sauce formulas that can add so much variation to the flavor of each dish. The tempura dipping sauce has just three ingredients, easily measured by the kids, but should probably be cooked up by an adult. On the other hand, the garlic-mayo dip can be made in less than a minute by any child old enough to handle a food processor. The only problem with both these recipes is that you parents are going to be challenged to come up with entrées that won’t be upstaged by your kids’ side dishes. As a suggestion, I did test both these asparagus recipes alongside the Turkey Cutlet recipe appearing in this month’s the Guest Chef feature and they both paired well. Or order the new Melissa’s cookbook that this recipe came from and choose your own delectable dish!


Roasted Asparagus in Parmesan Eggroll with Tempura Dipping SauceRoasted Asparagus in Parmesan Eggroll with Tempura Dipping Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients
24 medium fresh asparagus spears, medium size, tough ends trimmed
1 package Melissa’s Eggroll wrappers
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil

Directions
Asparagus:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

1. On a large, clean cutting board lay eggroll wrapper so the corners are at top, bottom, left and right.
2. Slice off the right and left corners of the wrapper about 1½ inches so that, when rolled, the asparagus spears will stick out each end.
3. Brush the wrappers completely with olive oil, sprinkle generously with Parmesan.
4. Place 3 asparagus spears on bottom corner of the wrapper and roll them up tight, jelly-roll style, with both ends of the spears sticking out at least a few inches.
5. Repeat until all the asparagus spears are used up.
6. Place the rolls on a foil lined baking sheet, brush each with olive oil, place the baking sheet in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until wrappers are golden brown and asparagus is sizzling.

DIPPING SAUCE:
1 c. chicken broth
4 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. Mirin

Heat broth, soy sauce, and Mirin to boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to low to keep warm until asparagus ready to serve.

What kids can do:
All measuring, trimming, brushing, sprinkling and rolling What supervising adult should do: Let your sous chefs measure the sauce ingredients, but take over the cooking. Use your own judgment about the trimming of the two sides of the eggroll wrappers based on the age of your helpers.

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Mayonnaise Sauce
Serves: Four

Ingredients
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, medium size, tough ends trimmed#1
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 scallions, trimmed for strips and sauce (see recipes)
1 cup Garlic Mayonnaise (see recipe)

Preparation:
Asparagus:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

1. Place asparagus in plastic produce bag.
2. Add olive oil, lemon juice, Balsamic and Worcestershire and then shake well to coat spears; be careful not to break off tops of asparagus.
3. Spread asparagus out on a foiled baking sheet, drizzle remaining liquid from plastic bag over the asparagus, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roast 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. Asparagus should sizzle, but do not overcook.
5. Strip the longest stalk from each scallion, place strip horizontally on cutting board, with a spatula, pick up three hot spears of asparagus and lay across scallion strip and tie in a bundle.
6. Plate two or three bundles person.

Garlic Mayo:
Ingredients
3 cloves Melissa’s Fresh Peeled Garlic
1 cup mayonnaise
½ tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
2 scallions, chopped

Preparation
Combine all ingredients in food processor, except scallions, blend thoroughly, place in mixing bowl and whisk in chopped scallions. Serve on or next to each portion of bundled asparagus as a dipping sauce.

• What kids can do: All measuring, mixing, chopping and trimming of ingredients.

• What supervising adult should do: Handle the placing of the hot asparagus on the scallion ties, but let your sous chefs do the final knotting of the bundles.