Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus

Spring is in the air, and it’s only March. And what better way to celebrate the nice weather we been experiencing the past couple of days than with a real taste of spring — asparagus.

It’s hard to go wrong with this tasty and nutritious superfood. Whether you steam it, broil it or grill it, asparagus is good by itself or combined it with other vegetables, meats or seafood.

The following is an easy saute in which asparagus is combined with shrimp for a delicious dish that can be made in less 30 minutes. Served with a salad, a side of rice or over pasta, this recipe is sure to be one that you will reach for each and every spring.

Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus
1 pound shrimp, medium to large, peeled and deveined
¾ teaspoon kosker salt (to taste)
Black pepper, to taste
1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thinly
¾ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut into 2 inch lengths (about 2 cups)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Place shrimp on paper towels and dry very well.
Sprinkle shrimp with a bit of the salt and pepper.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of the lemon peel and then cut the strips into very thin long pieces; be sure to peel only the yellow part of the peel, not the bitter white part.
Cut lemon in half and juice it into a small dish, removing seeds.
Heat a deep 12-inch skillet (preferably not nonstick) over medium high heat for 1 minute.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until it’s shimmering hot — just a few seconds.
Add the shrimp in a single layer and do not disturb it; let cook for about 2 minutes until browned.
Turn shrimp over and brown the other side, about 1½ minutes, then transfer to a plate. Shrimp should not be cooked through.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
Add asparagus, lemon zest strips, red pepper flakes and a bit of salt and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add chicken broth and cover, simmering for 1 to 2 minutes until asparagus is almost done.
Stir cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and stir into the pan.
Add shrimp back to the pan and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until done.
Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then taste and add more juice, salt and pepper if needed.
Yield: Serves 3.

Steak — The Green Way

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. A lot has happened since the first one was celebrated in April 1970.

I have to admit, back then as a college student, the observation didn’t mean as much to me as it does today. Now, I’m trying to do my best to be a good steward of the Earth on a daily basis.

I’m into recycling as are many others. I also don’t use chemicals on my garden or lawn. And as a hunter and an angler, I try to practice conservation.

One area I hadn’t given a lot of thought about was cooking green. That was until I picked up "Cooking Green," by cookbook author Kate Heyhoe. In it, she talks about reducing our "cookprint."

One way to do this is reducing our energy consumption, she suggests. She writes that the appliances we use for storing and cooking our food accounts for 30 percent of our household energy use.

One of the most interesting suggestions she has is that we consider using toaster ovens. Heyhoe says toaster ovens take less time to heat up and cool down and use way less energy than a standard oven.

And you can fix just about anything in a toaster oven — from pizza to chicken to pork chops, baked potatoes to hamburgers to fish to steaks. It’s surprising how many things you can make in a toaster oven.

If you have a toaster oven that’s been gathering dust like we did and want some recipes, I suggest you pick up a copy of "The Gourmet Toaster Oven" (Ten Speed Press, $18.95) by Lynn Alley. In it, Alley offers several dozen toaster oven recipes, including ones for muffins, pot pies and cakes, not to mention main dishes.

Here are two the recipes from the book that look appealing to me.

Grilled Steak with Cracked Peppercorns
4 teaspoons black or mixed peppercorns
1 to 2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 porterhouse steaks or other cut of choice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
Olive oil
2 lemon wedges (optional)
Preheat the toaster oven to broil. For easy cleanup, line the toaster oven baking tray with aluminum foil. (Check your manufacturer’s instructions, however, for any cautions against the use of aluminum foil in your toaster oven.)
Crush the peppercorns and salt in a mortar using a pestle. Or if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, toss the peppercorns and salt into a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or a wine bottle.
Rub both sides of the steak with the olive oil and press the peppercorn mixture into the steaks. Place the steak on the prepared tray.
Broil the steak for about 7 to 10 minutes on each side, until the meat reaches medium doneness. (The time may vary depending upon the thickness of the steak.) Remove from the oven, transfer to plates, and serve immediately with lemon.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutrtional analysis per serving: 423 calories, 21 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, no sugar, 37 grams fat, 77 milligrams cholesterol, 1,343 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Roasted Asparagus
10 ounces fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt
Capers (optional)
Preheat the toaster oven to 375.
Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and vinegar in a baking dish and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the asparagus spears are tender. Serve hot or chill to room temperature and garnish with capers. Or serve cold in a salad.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 171 calories, 3 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 14 grams fat, no cholesterol, 140 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Time for Asparagus

I’ve really been enjoying the asparagus that’s been in the supermarkets lately. The stalks haven’t been too big or woody, and the price has been right.

Most of the time, we blanche our asparagus and serve it as a side with our main dish. I also like to broil it for about 4 or 5 minutes, on cookie sheet sprayed with vegetable oil, seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes.

The leftovers (if there are any), are pretty tasty, too.

Of course, I can’t wait to harvest my own asparagus later this spring. Over the past several years, I’ve been busy planting making an asparagus bed on the east side of our house, in full sun all morning. (Asparagus is ready to harvest the third year after planting.)

Planting the asparagus bed may well be the smartest thing I’ve done in all my years of gardening. How many things can you plant in your vegetable garden that will allow for harvests over 20 years or more?

I recently received an e-mail from the California Asparagus Commission with a nice recipe for an asparagus scramble (below). It looks like something that might be pretty tasty.

The group’s Web site also has many, many more asparagus recipes. If my Mary Washingtons (variety) produce like they should, it will be a site that will be bookmarked and visited quite often.

Fresh Asparagus Scramble with Herbed Cream Cheese & Tomatoes
1 pound asparagus spears, ends trimmed
8 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces whipped garlic and herb cream cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Blanch asparagus spears in medium pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Whisk eggs in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add eggs. Stir until eggs
are almost set, about 1 minute. Add cheese in dollops and then
add tomatoes. Stir until cheese melts and eggs are softly set,
about 2 minutes.
To serve, cut asparagus spears into 2- to 3-inch pieces and fold into egg mixture and place on heated plate or oval ovenware. Garnish with chopped parsley. Option: serve an additional 2-3 spears of cooked asparagus on the side.
Note: 3 whole eggs and 9 whites can be used instead of 8 whole eggs.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 193 calories, 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 152 milligrams sodium, 298 milligrams cholesterol 3 grams dietary fiber, 12 grams protein.