Asparagus has been known and eaten for at least 3000 years. It is a native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It was relished both for its tender delicious spears and its health giving properties, by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Syrians. Sprouting in early spring, it has always provided a boost of vitamins and healthy compounds just when people needed it most. In America it is an “escaped alien,” meaning not a native plant. It now grows wild in many areas including the Rio Grande River valley and all through the woods of the east coast. It grows from “crowns” of stablished roots, prefers sandy, well drained soil, and some water.
Asparagus cultivation has been known from Roman times, and is not significantly different now than it was then. It is a highly labor intensive crop during the harvest season because the sprouts appear, grow to cutting heights, and begin to become woody and bloom out within 24 to 36 hours. There is no way to cut it mechanically (robots where are you) and the whole plantation needs to be hand cut every day. For a really good explanation of the economics of asparagus production see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/10/asparagus-farms-california_n_7029836.html
In addition to being succulent and delicious, asparagus contains many nutrients, phytonutrients, antioxidants and more. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=12
Preparing asparagus is simplicity itself. Although it is usually sold with a substantially woody bottom, if you hold each stalk in your hands and gently bend it, it will break in the appropriate spot. If you want to get more out of each spear, use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom half or so of each spear, starting toward the top and peeling down the stalk. This way you can see where the stalk turns from green to yellowish white. There is really little you can do with the woody bottoms but put them in the stock pot.
For an everyday dish, put about a quarter of an inch of water into a pot or skillet with a tight fitting lid. It is best if the pot will hold the spears in one or at most two layers. Boil the water, add the asparagus, lower the heat slightly and put on the lid. After four or five minutes stick a fork into a thickish spear. If it will go in, take the asparagus out. If you want it to stay nicely crisp, put it in a bowl of ice water. Done. Many people serve with a little melted butter. Maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.
If it is not buttered or sauced, Miss Manners and other etiquette gurus say it is not only ok, it is traditional, to eat your asparagus with your fingers. The controversy still rages. If I were eating with the Queen of England I’d wait and see what she did, ditto my new boss. But at most times I prefer my fingers.
Although the modern food supply business now brings us asparagus at all times of year, it is still more abundant in spring. The best tasting spears will be of moderate thickness, not just shoestrings. Personal taste will tell you what size you like. There is currently a fad for grilling and roasting asparagus. I don’t personally care for that because it seems to dry out the spears too much, unless the spears are wrapped in bacon! But, to each his own.
Tuesday March 1 will be Senior Discount Day at Fry”s and Safeway; shoppers 55 and older will receive 10% off their entire order. As always, the prices quoted are for our area and for Fry’s and Safeway a membership card must be used. Sprouts uses no card, has no “senior discount day”, but every Wednesday is “double ad day” when you can get both last week’s flyer prices and this week’s.
On Sale This Week 2/22 — 3/1
Red, Green, or Black, seedless
Red or Green
Red or Green
73% lean, 5 lb chub
93% lean, 3 lb or more in meat case
85% lean, AZ grown, Value Pack
Buy One Get Two
Foster Farms, Boneless Skinless Breasts
Boneless Skinless Breasts
Thighs or Drums, bone in
Chuck or Shoulder, boneless
Bone in, roast or steaks, fam. pack
Special Deals—Fri, Sat, Sun, Feb 24 - Feb 26 4 times fuel points on select gift cards. With Digital Coupon. See store for details
Buy 6 items with special shelf tags, get $3 off.
$.88/ 6oz box—Blueberries
$1.99/lb—Grapes, seedless, red, green, black
$5.99—Mandarins, seedless, 3 lb bag or 5 lb box
$3.50/ 6 oz box—Blueberries or blackberries, Organic
$2.49/lb—Tomatoes on the Vine, Organic, Arizona grown
$2.99/lb pkg—Turkey, ground, Korger brand
$4.99/lb—Beef, tri-tip steak or roast, boneless, beef loin
$6.99/lb—Beef flatiron steaks, beef chuck
Other Good Deals
$2.77/pkg—Lunch Meat, Kroger brand, 7 to 9 oz
$.88/each—Soup, Progresso, must buy 8 or more in a single order, select varieties
$1.99/gallon—Milk, Fry’s brand, limit 2
$.44/each—Powerade 32 oz. or Arrowhead sparkling water 1 liter, must buy 10
Buy 6 Get $3 off—Prices reflect $.50/item saving. Must buy in multiples of 6.
$1.99/case—Fry’s filtered water
$1.99/each—Fritos and Cheetos, select sized and varieties
$3.49/each—Ice Cream, Ben and Jerry’s, select varieties
$.99/box—Facial tissue, Kleenex, select varieties
Special Deals and Programs—Monopoly Game continues, watch for special shelf tags
Clip or Click coupons, a whole page of possible savings.
Enter to Win a Tropical Vacation or other prizes. Buy $10 worth of specially marked frozen foods, your register tape will give you a web site, register and maybe you’ll win. Items include: Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream, Eggo waffles, frozen turkey or beef burgers, and others.
$3.99/each 1 lb pkg—Strawberries, Organic
$.50/each—Bell peppers, or Cucumbers
$.99/lb—Squash, Zucchini, Yellow or Grey
$1.99/lb—Tomatoes on the vine
$.77/each—Hass Avocados, medium
$1.57/lb—Pork, Assorted loin chops, bone in, family pack
BOGO—Pork, loin chops, boneless, center cut, Buy one Get one Free
$4.99/lb—Beef, London Broil, or chuck steaks, boneless, familypack
Other Good Deals
$.77/dz—Eggs, limit 2
$1.99/gallon—Milk, Lucerne, select varieties, limit 2
$2/each—Ice Cream, Blue Bunny, 16 oz, select varieties
$.50/each—Yogurt, Yoplait, select varieties
$1.50/each—Tuna, canned Bumblebee solid white, or Starkist Albacore, 5 oz
Clip or CLICK coupons, price is price with coupon
$.69/each—Tuna, Starkist or Bumblebee, select varieties, 5 oz, limit6
$.88/each—Candy bars, Mars, Hershy’s or Nestle, king size, limit 6
$.99/each—Dairy products, select Lucerne brand, whipping cream, half and half, etc.limit 6
Sprouts Buy One Get One Free sale on many items continues this week. Watch for shelf tags on items throughout the store, especially in Vitamins and Supplements, Grocery, Freezer, and Body Care aisles.
$.98/lb—Squash, Italian and yellow
$2.50/ lb pkg—Strawberries
$2.99/lb—Chicken, Boneless skinless, thighs
$1.49/lb—Chicken, Drums and Thighs
$1.49/lb—Pork, Shoulder roast
BOGO—Pork chops, loin
$4.99/lb—Beef, short ribs, Arizona grown, never frozen
Other Good Deals
$3.99/lb—Wild West Trail Mix, bulk foods
$7.99/lb—Dried Cherries, bulk foods
BOGO—Blue Diamond Nut Thins
BOGO—Boulder Canyon potato chips, Tres Madres Tortilla Chips.
$6.99/lb—Deli Turkey Breast, Bourbon Maple, sliced and packaged
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus and Turkey
24 medium (not skinny) asparagus spears, washed, trimmed (broken off) to about 5 to 6 inches.
12 pieces of cooked turkey (or cooked chicken breast), approx. same size as asparagus
15 pieces of uncooked, thin sliced bacon, you need a few more to be sure you have enough to completely cover asparagus
Cover a 11 x 17 baking sheet wth aluminum foil. Or any size that will accommodate your bundles. They can lie close, but should not touch. Divide asparagus and chicken or turkey into 12 bundles, matching sizes as well as you can. Wrap a slice of bacon around each bundle, completely covering the asparagus and meat. Some like to start at the top and some like to start at the bottom, you will have to decide that for yourself. Be sure to tuck the bacon around the asparagus tips—that is the most likely to dry out.
Cook in a 350º oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or till the bacon is to your desired doneness. Not too crisp is best. Use a wide spatula to remove from the pan. Serve hot or warm.
Makes 12 bundles.
Three to four inch asparagus tips would make a wonderful appetizer wrapped in bacon.
There are many many videos and recipes for bacon wrapped asparagus. Pinterest claims to have over a thousand! But very few feature fully wrapped spears. I think it is important to wrap the tips, because the likelihood of their being burnt or overcooked is high. If you try some of these other styles, why don’t you drop us a comment and let us know how it worked out?
Asparagus and Leek Soup
There are two main types of asparagus soup, the classical one made with heavy cream, and the newer, healthier one made with a potato. This recipe is the potato style, but there is a link to the other type as well. The most important thing for either is, remove all the totally woody parts at the bottom of the stalk. If you don’t your soup will not be very flavorful and even if you blend the heck out of it you will still have a very fibrous mix. Best is to either only use the part above the natural breaking point, or peel the stalks and only use the green part. Experience speaks.
2 T olive oil
2 leeks, white and green parts only, wash carefully
1 1/2 lb washed and prepared asparagus, cut the stalks into about 1 inch chunks. Reserve the tips.
1 1/2 lb potato, russet type, peeled, roughly cut
3 cups good chicken stock, or a combination of stock and milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb mushrooms sliced thin (optional)
In a heavy pot over medium heat, saute the leeks in the olive oil. Add the asparagus stalk pieces and the cut up potato. Stir around. Add the liquid and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking until potato and asparagus are very soft, between 15 and 20 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes (or longer if you like).
In a small pot or skillet, heat a little water, add the asparagus tips, steam briefly (maybe 3 minutes.) Remove and set aside. If you are using the mushrooms, saute them in a little oil or butter, set aside.
When you are ready, puree the potato and asparagus in their cooking liquid. Use a stick blender or do it in batches in a blender or food processor If you want a more elegant soup, push through a sieve. Reheat, taste and add more salt and some pepper. Serve hot, garnished with the asparagus tips and the mushrooms (if using).
Serves about 4-5
For a special treat try this.
Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Do you have kids who reject asparagus? I have the answer. It’s Aunt Cindy’s Secret Sauce. Make up some sauce, get them to dunk their steamed asparagus spears in and chances are, they will learn to like it. You may like it too. The ingredients are somewhat variable, but you really can’t go very far wrong.
Start with about 3/4 to 1 cup of mayonnaise
Add a good jolt of catchup. Maybe about 1/4 cup. When you stir it up it should look medium pink.
Now add a Tablespoon or so of dark mustard.
Next a Tablespoon or so of Worcester sauce.
Stir this all up and taste it. At this point I usually add one or more of the following to taste.
Pickle Juice (whatever you have on hand)
A little Soy Sauce
You can also vary the sauce by starting with a base of Sour Cream, Greek Yogurt, or Veganaise. If you use Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt you should add something a little sweet to offset the sourness.
It also works on broccoli, cooked carrots, and can be used as a salad dressing!