I watched a Martha Stewart program last year where she had Patricia Wells as one of her guest chefs. I had never heard of her before but I certainly enjoyed her style of cooking. I made a note to buy her cookbook, ‘Vegetable Harvest‘, but never got around to ordering it until last week. There are at least 35 recipes in this book that I want to make! I’ve already made three and like the outcome so you will be seeing more of her recipes showing up in my food blog. Growing up, my Mom always made sure we had at least 3 servings of vegetables and that the meat portion was always smaller than the vegetable portion. To this day, it’s a practice I adhere to. Vegetables are crucial to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Whether baked, boiled, stir-fried, steamed, vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet. Baking is an especially good way to prepare vegetables because the dry heat tends to retain the vitamins and minerals.
Three tips for cooking vegetables to help retain the most nutrition:
- Reduce the amount of water used. Only add enough water to prevent overcooking because overcooked vegetables tend to lose many important vitamins, minerals, color and texture.
- Reduce cooking time to help prevent overcooking. Vegetables will remain more crisp and flavorful.
- Reduce the amount of exposed surface of the vegetable. Whole vegetables retain more vitamins than small pieces, so limit cutting, paring and shredding.
Remember to include vegetables in your daily diet. Dark green leafy vegetables as well as dark yellow and orange vegetables are high sources of vitamin A (helps reduce risk of cancer). I have mentioned before that when preparing a meal, try to think of vegetables with a ‘rainbow’ color theme. This will help give you a variety of nutrients and vitamins plus it will make your plate look more interesting.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 small spears (about 1 lb.) fresh asparagus, rinsed and tough ends trimmed
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese
16 thin slices best-quality smoked ham
In a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, combine the oil, asparagus, and salt. Sprinkle with several tablespoons of cold water. Cover. Cook over high hear just until the oil and water mixture begins to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the vegetable begins to brown in spots, 8 to 10 minutes.
Place the cheese on a large plate. Roll the asparagus in the cheese. Wrap each asparagus spear in a slice of ham and secure with a toothpick. Return the asparagus to the skillet and cook until the ham is crispy and brown, turning the asparagus with tongs, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: Oh my gosh! The flavors and textures coming from this dish are so delicious! I had some prosciutto in the fridge and used that in lieu of the smoked ham. I also chose to cook the asparagus in the microwave for 40 seconds just until the asparagus turned a darker green but was still tender-crisp. I found rolling the asparagus in the cheese a bit tedious and decided to sprinkle a bit on each slice of prosciutto and then proceeded to roll the asparagus in it. Worked like a charm! Serve warm or room temperature. For some asparagus-friendly wines as suggested by Les Caves Taillevent in Paris: try a chardonnay such as Bourgogne Alogote or Petite Chablis and a Menetou-Salon (sauvignon blanc). Cheers!