Please excuse the delay of this newsletter. We used the school holidays for a long journey toItaly and Spain. Although the shopping in Milan, my husband’s hometown, was excellent, the weather left much to be desired. Most of the time it was raining and freezing cold…especially when we went to Barcelona in Spain to admire the architecture and interior design of Antoni Gaudi. Almost during our entire stay the rain kept on pouring down. To gain access to some of the tourist attractions we had to queue and shiver under our umbrellas for almost an hour…a taxing task for everybody, especially for our son Valentino.
To compensate, we did a lot of shopping and eating. Valentino’s first question in any kind of cultural space is always: “Where is the souvenir shop?”
My thinking goes rather along the lines: “Where is a good restaurant close by?”
We found both in Barcelona and Milano: Plenty of shops and plenty of restaurants. Not to mention the wonderfully stocked supermarkets, aisles and aisles of delicacies and wine.
As a first measure I have completely stopped drinking alcohol. My beloved red wine simply leads to piling on the pounds. I further vowed not to make any sweets at home. If my men want to eat something chocolaty during the coming months they have to go out and buy it. Also I try to avoid deep fried dishes and stick to eating lots of salads and vegetables. I will keep you posted about the success – so far I am down one kilogram with three more to go…
I hope you all enjoyed wonderful holidays as well. My guess is, at least some of the recipients of this newsletter struggle with the same problem as me right now. That’s why I dedicate this episode to a traditionally slimming vegetable, which is rather a newcomer in India: asparagus.
The Indian variety of asparagus has little to do with what we grow in Bavaria, Germany. In my ‘Vaterland’ asparagus is a highly priced delicacy which is available only during harvest time around June. The Bavarian asparagus is white in color and at least a finger thick. In India green asparagus is cultivated. It is harvested when it is really thin, almost all year round. Just yesterday I found fresh asparagus here in the market. Although it looks tiny, the taste is great and it flushes out excess water from your body.
By the way, it is really difficult to give exact amounts for asparagus. This vegetable is sold in bundles whose sizes vary largely. I would propose you buy at least one bundle per head when you prepare asparagus for your family.
Wishing you happy cooking, always!
Kornelia Santoro with family
Asparagus for a natural body flush
In this newsletter I introduce two recipes for asparagus: How to prepare the vegetable in an easy way to accompany meat or fish dishes and how to make a luscious asparagus-cream-soup.
This has the following reason: The first time I cooked asparagus here in Goa I just cut off the end of the stems, boiled it and served it with some melted butter. As a good German I had no quivers at all to eat the full length of the vegetable. My Italian husband however just cut off the tender tips and left the rest to be thrown away…this quite shocked me. I cannot deny my austere German character traits: I hate wasting anything, especially expensive food. So the next time I just served the tender bits and used the lower parts to make soup – which my spoilt husband ate happily without complaints.
One more tip: The tips of the vegetable are the best parts, but very delicate. Fresh asparagus has green tips which look alive and healthy. If the tips are dark or withered, don’t bother to spend the money for it. When you buy asparagus, make sure the vendor carefully covers the tips of the spears in a plastic bag. Then put the asparagus bundles on top of your other shopping so it does not get damaged.
You absolutely have to cook asparagus the day you are buying it to get the best from this rather expensive treat. Serve the vegetable immediately. The base for the soup can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
The upper halves of 4 bundles of asparagus, water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, pepper, 50 grams butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil
How to prepare boiled asparagus:
Keep the bundles of asparagus tied up and cut off 3 centimeters from the end of the spears. Discard these pieces. Now rinse your asparagus well with water, align it and cut off half of the stems. Boil the half with the tips to serve as vegetable.
For boiling, put the asparagus in a sufficiently big pot which allows the spears to lie down easily. Then cover them with water. Add the salt and sugar and the olive oil. The sugar balances any bitterness from the asparagus and the oil helps our bodies absorb the precious nutrients. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the spears for 5 to 10 minutes. If you want them to have a bit of bite, boil 5 minutes or even less; if you want them really soft let them simmer for 10 minutes.
Take out the stems from the water and put them on a plate for serving. Keep the cooking water for the soup. Melt the butter, pour it over the asparagus and serve immediately. You can grate some black pepper over it. This is one of the ways Germans eat their asparagus.
My husband however prefers boiled asparagus with a vinaigrette sauce. For this simply dissolve half a teaspoon salt in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Mix well with 3 tablespoons olive oil, dress the boiled asparagus with this and serve immediately.
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
The lower halves of 4 bundles of asparagus, 1 packet (0.2 liter) of cream, salt, pepper
How to prepare asparagus-cream-soup:
Take the asparagus stems and cut them into small pieces, as small as you can. Bring the water from cooking the upper halves to a boil, drop the asparagus pieces into it and let them simmer for 5 minutes. If you don’t want to serve the soup immediately, you can let this broth cool down and store it in the fridge for up to one week.
To finish the soup, smash the asparagus pieces with a blender stick (or fill the broth into a blender and crush the vegetable pieces). Now pour the cream into the soup, combine everything well and bring it to a quick boil. If the liquid is not enough for 4 servings you might need to add some water and salt according to your taste. Pour the soup into 4 bowls, garnish with liberal quantities of freshly grated pepper and serve.
Asparagus for a natural body flush
The white or green spears of asparagus have been appreciated already in ancient Egypt. From origins in the eastern Mediterranean countries it spread all over the world. In Europe it fell into obscurity until Louis XIV. initiated a renaissance of these lovely spears in the 18th century.
Asparagus belongs to the lily family. Its spears are actually the shoots from underground crowns which take 3 years to grow before producing shoots. This vegetable contains a lot of potassium and little sodium. In combination with the amino acid asparagines they make asparagus a natural diuretic. Traditionally asparagus has been used to alleviate swelling caused by arthritis and rheumatism.
Furthermore asparagus provides a lot of inulin which furthers the growth of healthy gut bacteria thus improving our digestion. The large amounts of folate make it an ideal vegetable for pregnant women, especially in the first trimester. Folate helps the fetus’ nervous system to develop properly.
Asparagus is also a very good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A and numerous B vitamins - including vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6. It also supplies plenty of dietary fiber, manganese, copper and phosphorus.
Asparagus is not a vegetable for everybody. It contains purines which can cause health problems for individuals with purine-related problems. The human body breaks purines down to uric acid. ‘Gout’ and kidney stones are caused by an excess amount of uric acid in the body. That’s why people with kidney problems or gout should avoid eating asparagus.