Aphrodisiacs, Asparagus, and Wine
I’m back from the St Paul Farmers Market, with yet another harvest of local, just cut asparagus. It is time for yet another tasty dish, and to prove again that asparagus goes just fine with wine.
I teach an aphrodisiac foods class, and asparagus is always one of the vegetables that gets mentioned as having sexy qualities. When you consider that the suggestive little spears can grow ten inches in 24 hours, you can see how that rumor got started. In spring, the earth wakens from its slumber and starts sprouting asparagus, making it seem more like father earth than our usual maternal imagery.
My other theory about the aphrodisiacal qualities of asparagus is more nutrient-based. I imagine that in years past, folks went all winter with diminishing access to vegetables of all kinds. As spring approached, people were gradually becoming mineral deficient, as well as just tired. Suddenly, spring brought forth greens and sprouts, as well as energizing sunlight. A feast of spring vegetables would nourish all the reproductive systems that are so dependent on good nutrition to work properly. Add the natural cycle of all the animals around them, giving birth in spring so that summer bounty would allow the young to thrive, and you have a perfect setting for the upward bound asparagus to take credit for randiness of all sorts.
A spring in your step and asparagus in the pot, why not serve the spears with a wink and a nod?
In the perfect synergy that is nature, asparagus is one of the best things for a pregnant woman to eat, with a mere five spears providing 60% of the folic acid needed to to prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses. Folic acid is also essential to healthy blood and liver, so it is a good cleanse after the winter. It’s also a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamine, B6, vitamin C, and glutathione and rutin.
Just think how good you would feel after a long stretch of dried up parsnips, getting a concentrated dose of all that. For today’s diners, who have access to vegetables and bottled vitamins all year round, those last two items, glutathione and rutin, actually take on some importance.
Now that we live in a state of over-nutrition, we are finding that alot of our health problems are related to inflammation. Cholesterol plaques form in response to inflammation. Arthritis is inflammation. All sorts of nagging aches and pains are fueled by inflammation. Allergies of all sorts feed inflammation.
So the potent and helpful anti-inflammatory effects of glutathione and rutin come in quite handy.
It’s almost like we need our spring dose of asparagus as badly as we need our first walks of the season and the sun on our faces.
So, as long as this super sexy vegetable is here, I am going to revel in it like the bacchanalian treat that it is. For this recipe, I seek out two kinds of wine. One is the super dry, simple Italian white from Orvieto, and the second is Vinho Verde.
I’m really liking Vinho Verde these days, it is perfect for warm weather. It also can have that little bit of effervescence that makes it seem just a little mischievious, tickling as you drink. A big selling point for us, though, is the lower alcohol. I admit it, I’m a lightweight, and with all the work I have to do, I don’t have time to lie about recovering from hangovers. So, the light, fresh wine from unripe grapes has my vote for perfect pair with my asparagus orgies. Asparagus has a reputation as the enemy of wine, because its minerally character and a stinky sulfur compound called asparagusic acid. The combination of elements in asparagus can make wine taste weirdly sweet, so you want very dry, simple wine. Grilling the asparagus makes it more wine-friendly, as well.
Grilled Asparagus and New Potato Salad
This is a big batch- I took it to a party where it was very well received.
3 pounds medium sized new potatoes (don’t use the marble sized ones- they will fall thru the grill!)
1 pound asparagus, tough bottoms trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus canola for the grill
2 cups fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1. Boil the potatoes, putting them in a large pot of cold water and bringing them to a boil, then checking every five minutes by piercing one with a paring knife. don’t overcook, just get them tender enough to eat. Drain, and chill, then halve them. Put in a large bowl, add the asparagus, and drizzle with olive oil.
2. Preheat the grill- I always soak some wood chips to add a smoky flavor on the gas grill. When hot, put canola oil in a cup, and use tongs to rub it on the grate. Place the asparagus on one side, and then put the potatoes, cut side down, on the other side. With this batch, you will probably only have room for half. Close the grill for three minutes, then roll the asparagus to see if it is browning. When it is browned in spots and wrinkling just a little, transfer to the bowl. Turn over a few potatoes, and when they are marked and crisped around the edges, transfer to the bowl. Let all cool.
3. Chop the basil, whisk the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and add to the potatoes. Toss it all and serve at room temp.