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A delicious, healthy and filling spring salad with ham, hard-boiled eggs, chives and a simple vinaigrette.
Asparagus Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Ham
Asparagus or Asparagus officinalis is a perennial herb (meaning that it lives more than two years) with stout stems or spears which emerge during the spring and summer months. It is native to Europe, Africa and Asia.
Asparagus had been cultivated and eaten for over 2000 years in Egypt, has been eaten by the Greek and the Romans in ancient times and there is even a recipe for asparagus in the oldest known cookbook – De re coquinaria from Apicius, written sometimes during the third-century AD. (Wikipedia)
In Germany Spargelzeit or asparagus season starts mid-April and ends, traditionally, on the 24th of June or St. John the Baptist Day. Germans prefer the white asparagus, while the green asparagus is more popular in Great Britain and North America.
The asparagus season in Great Britain starts officially on the 23rd of April and lasts 8 weeks. In North America asparagus is harvested from late February to June, depending on location.
However, nowadays, asparagus, especially the green asparagus, is available all-year around.
According to The World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com) “asparagus has a nutritional uniqueness that is second to none”, researchers having identified almost 100 phytonutrient compounds in it.
Sounds interesting, but as all these compounds are words I have never heard before and I do not understand, do follow the link, if you would like to know more about it. What I do understand is that asparagus has very good rankings when it comes to the high content of vitamin K, folate, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Asparagus is also rich in fiber, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B3, potassium, choline, vitamin A, zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and calcium.
Asparagus only has 20 calories per 5 spears, yet, as shown above, it is packed with vitamins and minerals. According to draxe.com, here are the “nutrition facts, listed in recommended daily values:
- 20 calories per cup
- 2 grams of protein
- 60% folacin
- 38% vitamin K
- 20% vitamin C
- 15% vitamin B1 Thianin
- 10% vitamin B6
- 8% vitamin A
- 6% vitamin B2 Riboflavin
- 5% vitamin B3 Niacin
- 2% calcium
- 4% magnesium
- 4% copper”
Asparagus health benefits:
Studies have shown many of the health benefits of asparagus.
- Asparagus is a good source of vitamin K, which is a blood clotting vitamin, can improve bone health and supports heart health.
- Asparagus has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. According to whfoods.com when it comes to cancer “some of the compounds in the extracts in asparagus have been found to have direct antitumor properties”. In the area of type 2 diabetes, asparagus helps to achieve a “better insulin secretion and better regulation of blood sugar” and when it comes to blood pressure one compound in the asparagus extracts “has been shown to inhibit the function of an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)”, the inhibition of which can prevent the constriction of the blood vessels, which will lead to less pressure on the blood.
- The high fiber content improves digestion and also lowers the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, obesity.
- Asparagus is a natural diuretic, increasing the excretion of water from the body and it can also help to help urinary tract infections.
- Asparagus is beneficial when eaten during the pregnancy as well. It has a high folate content, which decreases the risk of neural-tube defects in fetuses.
Actually, the last two mentioned health benefits are what made asparagus known to me. I have never had asparagus in Romania, I have never even seen it during my childhood and youth there, I knew it only by name and pictures in magazines. But as I got pregnant for the first time, I started reading about food that would be beneficial during the pregnancy and asparagus was one of the first to come up.
First of all, the high content of folate, which is so important during the pregnancy. And then help against something more palpable for me at the time, retaining water in my body. It was a hot summer, and my feet would be so swollen during the afternoon and the evening that I sometimes really had difficulties walking.
I remember one time going to work wearing normal shoes and taking a pair of flip-flops with me. It was so hot and my feet were aching all the time, so I thought nobody would notice or care if I wore flip- flops in the office. When the time came and I wanted to go home again, I found that it was impossible to put on my normal shoes again, my feet were huge. That was fun, having to walk quite a long way home with my huuuuge belly and plastic flip-flops.
So I ate a lot of asparagus during that time… a lot… I learned to love it, discovered so many ways to cook it.
How to cook asparagus:
To cook the asparagus for this salad is very easy. Actually, this is the most common way of dealing with asparagus, I suppose. Plain, boiled asparagus, which can be served with different kinds of sauces, like in this recipe for White Asparagus with Sauce Hollandaise and Ham.
The most important thing when cooking asparagus is to not overcook it, I really cannot eat overcooked asparagus, I hate it when it just lies there all limp and mushy.
How to cook green asparagus:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add a teaspoon butter and the prepared green asparagus. Cook the asparagus for 8 minutes, it should still be firm to the bite or al dente.
How to cook white asparagus:
White asparagus needs to be peeled before cooking. Use a vegetable peeler for that purpose.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add ½ teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon butter. Give the asparagus to the pot, bring to a boil again, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus stems are, check, they should still be firm to the bite or al dente.
Easy asparagus recipes:
- 450 g/ 1 lb asparagus
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- 200 g/ 7 oz cooked ham
- 1 handful chives
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons neutral tasting vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon medium mustard
- salt and pepper
- boiled new potatoes, to serve
Remove the lower third of the asparagus stems. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add a teaspoon butter and the prepared green asparagus. Cook the asparagus for 8 minutes, it should still be firm to the bite or al dente. Remove from the water and drain well.
In the meantime make the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, oil and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle the asparagus with about half of the vinaigrette and rub the spears gently with the dressing. Let marinate for about 30 minutes.
Cook 3 eggs or use leftover hard-boiled eggs. Peel them. Chop them finely, but keep a few slices whole for decoration purposes, if desired. Chop the ham and the chives. Cut the tops of the asparagus stems and set them aside. Chop the remaining of the asparagus stems. Mix together all the chopped ingredients.
Arrange the tops of the asparagus stems on a platter. Add the remaining mixed salad and sprinkle with the remaining vinaigrette.
Serve with boiled new potatoes.
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