Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Asparagus - A Sign of Spring

I'm not sure that seeing asparagus in the grocery store is a true sign of spring.  Since now, I seem to see it all year round.  For me, seeing fresh asparagus means that spring is not far away. 

Since Easter is coming up in a couple of days, I thought this asparagus recipe would be great for a nice dinner.  This is a recipe I made several years ago.  It was originally published in Cooking Light magazine.  A colleague made it and declared that her family gobbled them straight off the baking sheet.  What more can you say about a vegetable!

For more information on selecting, storing and the nutritional value of asparagus check out the Fruit and Vegetables More Matters website.  Also check out the Local Foods/Seasonal Eating section of UNL-Extension Food Website.  You will find more recipes for asparagus and other seasonal produce.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

Serves 8.


2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Cracked black pepper, optional


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. 
2.  Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Coat with olive oil.  Rub asparagus to coat with olive oil.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.

3.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan continually.  Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Pour over asparagu, tossing to coat.  Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day is the tagline for National Nutrition Month.  I'm sure the only people excited about this 'holiday' are those working in the nutrition field.  But, this is an excellent opportunity to talk with consumers about what a healthy diet can be and most of all, how delicious a healthy diet can be.  Just because a food is healthy does not mean it has to taste badly.  Delicious and Healthy can coexist in the same dish. (Sounds like a Disney movie, but that's another story.)

The essence of Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day is that there is no one way to 'eat right'.  When exploring the 'right diet' for you, consider balance, moderation, variety of foods and aiming for a healthy lifestyle.  For more information on diets, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

If you plan to include fish in your diet, this recipe for baked fish with savory bread crumbs is an excellent place to start.  I came across this recipe in an Italian cookbook.  I tried it out in my Cooking 101 class and they liked it.  Now I am sharing it with you.  If parsley is not your thing, try basil or a basil pesto.  It will still be delicious.

Baked Fish with Savory Bread Crumbs

Serves 6.


2 pounds whitefish fillets, such as cod
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of one large lemon, about 3 Tablespoons
½ cup dry white wine
6 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
Zest of a large lemon, about 2 teaspoons
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon butter, optional
Fresh lemon slices, for serving


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.  Lightly salt fish on both sides.  Pour 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and ¼ teaspoon salt into the baking dish, and whisk together well.  Drop in the garlic cloves, and stir with the dressing.  Lay the fillets in the dish, turn to coat both sides of fish with dressing.  If your fish has skin, place the skin side down.

3.  Toss the bread crumbs in a bowl with the lemon zest, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir  until the mixture is coated with olive oil.

4.  Spoon the bread crumbs on top of the fish.  Bake, uncovered, until the crumbs are crisp and golden and the fish is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  Lift the fish out with a spatula, and set on a warm platter to serve family style. 

6.  If desired, reduce the sauce by about one-half.  Add one tablespoon butter, about one-third at a time.  Shake the pan to incorporate the butter.  Pour the sauce over fish and serve.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vegetarian Soul Food...You Kidding?

Vegetarian and Soul Food?  Now is that an oxymoron or what?  I just could not believe it.  Now I can see vegetables as a central part of the soul food diet, but no meat.  I had issues with that. 

While discussing soul food with a colleague, she mentioned the book, Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry.  I had heard of the book, but did not pay a lot of attention to it.  After all, vegan and soul food do not go together, at least not in my mind.  I always tell my students to keep an open mind and try new things.  Be careful of what you tell students.

I decided to give this book a try.  I was skeptical, very skeptical.  Upon examining the book, I found a few recipes that sounded interesting.  One was Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux.  My colleague assured me this was a good recipe.  Since she has good taste, I decided to try this recipe first. If she was wrong, I basically would loose a little time and some good collard greens would be lost. 

To say that I was surprised at how good these collards tasted, is an understatement.  They knocked my socks off.  They are a touch sweet, with none of the bitterness typically found in brassica vegetables.  I used freshly squeezed orange juice.  I think you need freshly squeezed with this recipe.
This recipe most definitely will be made again at my house. 

Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux

Serves 4 to 6.


Coarse sea salt
2 bunches collard greens
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice


1.  To prepare the collards, start by removing the large rib from the center.  Lay several leaves together.  Roll up and cut into a chiffonade. 

2.  In a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add one tablespoon salt.  Add the collards and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened.  Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water to cool the collards.

3.  Remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking and set the color of the greens.  Drain and set aside.

4.  In a large saute pan, combine the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat to medium.  Saute for one minute.  Add the collards and salt; stir to combine.  Sprinkle raisins on top and cover to allow raisins to soften, about 3 minutes.

5.  Add orange juice and cook for an additional minute or so.  Do not overcook.  Collards should still be bright green.

If you have a favorite soul food recipe that you have altered, we'd like to hear about it.