Monday, March 18, 2013

The Season of Green

It’s difficult not to associate the month of March with green. Spring solstice is just weeks away – signifying the start of a season known for blue skies, blooming flowers, and  vibrant, green grass. And let's not forget about a certain holiday we celebrated yesterday...St. Patrick’s Day certainly doesn’t skimp on the green food coloring.

While we’re all for celebrating a new season, holiday, (or anything for that matter), we generally like to skip the food coloring and celebrate with foods that are naturally festive and colorful. And isn’t it neat that when it comes to in-season produce, green veggies have a bold presence this time of year?

They include: artichokes, asparagus, avocados, and broccoli.
Image printed with permission from Healthy Aperature & A Family Feast
While asparagus makes for a great side dish to any gourmet meal (think: roasted asparagus and potatoes with a serving of fish or chicken), it’s equally delicious to add asparagus to a fresh spring time salad. A cup of asparagus has 27 calories, 5 grams of carbs, 3 grams of protein and 3 grams fiber. But the goodness doesn’t stop there. Asparagus is also packed with vitamin K, folate, and vitamin A. When you’re buying asparagus at the farmer’s market or grocery store, pass on the spears that appear dry and limp and instead, look for firm stalks with vibrant color, and compact, tight heads.
Other colors you’ll often see this time of year are bright yellow and orange. Grapefruit, kumquats, lemons, oranges, and tangerines are also in season.

It’s no surprise that we’re fans of citrus fruits as we’ve touched on their nutritional perks previously. And there’s no denying that we love their sweet, slightly tart flavor. Yet, we still have yet to discuss  tangerines. A medium orange or tangerine is only 50 calories and is what us nutrition professionals call a “nutrient dense food.” This means that for such a small amount of calories, you’re getting a lot of nutrients.   For example, one medium tangerine can provide over 30 percent of your Vitamin C requirements for the day.
And now, for a recipe.

This fresh, crisp salad, complimented with the sweetness of tangerines just screams “spring time!” Serve it with toasted whole grain bread for a light, yet satisfying lunch.

Serves 4

Ingredients for Tangerine-Thyme Vinaigrette
3 - 4 tablespoons tangerine juice
Zest of one tangerine
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 3 - 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredients for Asparagus, Tangerine & Blue Cheese

1 head Bibb lettuce, or other tender spring lettuce
4 tangerines, peeled and sliced horizontally into discs
2 ounces Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese
½ pound fresh asparagus, blanched until crisp-tender
2 ounce walnuts, toasted

      1. First, make the dressing.  Whisk together the tangerine juice, zest, shallot, thyme, salt and pepper.  Let the shallot sit in the juice for 10 – 15 minutes to mellow the flavor.  Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.  Set aside.

      2. To blanch the asparagus, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer in a large pan.  Add asparagus and let cook only 1- 2 minutes, until it turns bright green and is crisp-tender.  Drain asparagus and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water.  Drain and set aside.

      3. To toast the walnuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake about 8 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.

      4. Arrange the salad by placing several whole, large leaves of Bibb lettuce.  Arrange tangerine slices, blue cheese, asparagus and walnuts over leaves.  Drizzle each salad with 1 – 2 tablespoons of Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette.

These seasonal tips & recipe appeared the March 8th
issue of the Santa Clarita Valley’s Signal Health & Family Guide.
Pick up the next issue on April 12th for more in-season tips & recipes.

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