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Recipes for Beauty: Asparagus

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One of my favorite things about spring is watching the snow give way to tiny, green buds that bloom all over the place. It reminds me that it’s the season of growth and renewal, and asparagus is certainly one of the most delicious results. Now is the best time of year to enjoy it, when stalks are smaller and more tender (the dry, hot conditions of summer cause them to toughen up). Not only is asparagus healthy for your body—high levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients like saponins and flavonoids can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease—it’s also great for skin. A serving of asparagus contains around 100% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin K, an antioxidant that protects against damage by free radicals. It’s also high in vitamin A, which promotes healthy cell growth to keep skin looking youthful, as well as folic acid. A nutrient also known as folate, folacin, and vitamin B9, folic acid plays a big part in the growth of healthy skin cells and hair.

When choosing asparagus, look for long, thin stalks with bright green tops. They’re light, tender, and delicious by themselves (try sauteing stalks with garlic and olive oil) or as a crunchy addition to pastas, salads, and eggs. We’ve created three quick recipes to help you enjoy this springtime veggie right at the peak of freshness!

Quick Side: Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tough ends off of the asparagus and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Lay the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until lightly browned and tender (about 8–10 minutes for thick spears; about 5–8 minutes for thin spears). Toss with the lemon zest and juice. Serves 4.

Breakfast for Dinner: Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata

  • 1/2 lb asparagus
  • 12 eggs
  • 4 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 oz goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tough ends off of the asparagus and cut into one-inch pieces, reserving the asparagus tips. Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling, salted water for 1–2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl of ice water (this prevents the asparagus from overcooking in the oven). Whisk the eggs and then stir in salt, pepper, scallions, and asparagus pieces. Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and cook until the edges start to set, about 3–5 minutes. Top with the asparagus tips and goat cheese and bake until set, about 10–12 minutes. Serves 6.

Healthy Italian: Asparagus Pasta

  • 12 oz whole wheat farfalle
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Trim the tough ends off of the asparagus and cut into one-inch pieces. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the asparagus, shallots, and garlic until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the half and half and parmesan cheese, and simmer for another 2–3 minutes. Add pasta water to thin the sauce, toss with the farfalle, and season with salt and pepper. Top with the lemon zest. Serves 4.

Photo: Paul Strowger