Asparagus is spring's first vegetable — its very name in Greek means shoot or sprout. Firm, fresh spears start appearing in late April and keep coming until June, giving inventive cooks plenty of time to create delectable dishes.
Asparagus makes a healthy addition to a meal, topping the veggie nutrition charts in folic acid. It is also a good source of vitamins A, C and other nutrients. That's in addition to having only 4 calories per shoot.
One of my favorite asparagus dishes combines bulgur, a partially cooked, cracked whole wheat, and orzo, a small grain-shaped pasta.
Adjust the added salt, if any, depending upon the amount in the broth you use.
Look for an organically grown lemon and orange since you're using the outer skin for zest.
Herbed bulgur pilaf with asparagus
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 21 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup orzo pasta
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup bulgur
1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon, dried)
½ teaspoon each: lemon zest, orange zest
1/4 teaspoon saltFreshly ground pepper
2 cups sliced asparagus, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon each: orange juice, lemon juice
12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, see note below
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add green onions and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add orzo; cook, 2 minutes.
2. Add broth; heat to a boil. Add bulgur; cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in rosemary, lemon and orange zest, salt and pepper to taste. Cover; let sit 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. When nearly done, add the orange and lemon juices and a pinch of salt. Stir into the pilaf.
Note: Stack the basil from large to smaller leaves. Tightly roll the stack from stem ends to tips; slice as thinly as possible across the roll.
Per serving: 300 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 52 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 167 mg sodium, 9 g fiber.