(slideshow of 10 step-by-step photos that led up to the money-shot of the Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Soy Browned Butter)
My inbox is filled with emails from supporters of the “eating local” movement, urging people to consume food that is grown and produced in their local area. The movement is nothing new, for the past few years I’ve been reading about it in national newspapers, popular food magazines and countless websites. Many of my friends are participating in the challenge of consuming only locally grown foods for the entire month of October. I myself am a big fan of eating local to support our local economy, for a better quality of produce and for taking care of our environment. How many planes, trains and automobiles did that cantaloupe have to hitch a ride on before arriving in my breakfast bowl?
We regularly visit the farmer’s market, the local produce stand and even grow our own vegetables and herbs in the backyard (Don’t be fooled to think that I have a green thumb. I don’t. Growing your own food is easier than you think, but that’s for another column.)
But, sigh. Some days I just don’t have the energy, budget, nor the willpower to be a responsible member of this planet that we live on. Especially when it’s 5:15pm, my kids are hungry, it’s two days until payday and I’m rushing to the supermarket. Oh the drama that plays out in the backseat of the minivan, “MOOOOOMM…we’re staaarrrrvvvvinngg…we need cooooookies and cheese puffs for dinner….MAAMMMMAAAA…puleeeeeeze??”
Quick. Asparagus is on sale. They only take 15 minutes to cook. Will make Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Soy Browned Butter. Kids will eat ’em if I smother enough butter on ’em. But they are from Peru. The little sticker says so. Ahh, crap, who cares. The package goes in the cart and it’s what’s for dinner with a rotisserie chicken.
Well at least the supermarket was kind enough to tell me where my food is coming from. Okay, so I didn’t choose the mushrooms from Myakka, a farming area 20 minutes from me. But to ease my guilt, I imagined feeding a poor little starving child of an asparagus farmer in Peru. The child looks up at me with those cute, gigantic eyes. The widowed farmer smiles at me gratefully and whispers, “Thank you, Jaden for buying my asparagus.” I get a warm, cozy flutter in my heart.
Quickly, I stuff my tiara, cape and halo back into my handbag. Angelina Jolie is like totally my BFF.
YEAH, DO YOU SEE WHERE MY KIDS GET THE DRAMA THING FROM????
I have a feeling I’m going to get some complaint emails from environmentalists, pro eating local people and the mushroom farmer from Myakka that neglected to feed. I welcome and embrace all feedback. But instead of sending me an email, I would like to invite you over to my home, specifically at 5:15pm to babysit my tots while I run out to source my locally grown ingredients. You can lecture me about being a responsible human being all you want.
Could you also run a load of laundry while I cook dinner too?
Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Soy Browned Recipe
The recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Soy Browned Butter is from the Cooking Light The Complete Cookbook, a MASSIVE book weighing in at 4.4lbs with 1,200 recipes, 630 color photographs and a companion DVD. It’s an awesome book that I reach for when I don’t know what to cook. Totally worth every penny.
So I’ve given you the recipe below, straight from the book — but I did make a few changes to the recipe so I’ve highlighted my changes to the recipe in the paragraph below. This way you have both versions.
Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Soy Browned Butter
Recipe from Cooking Light The Complete Cookbook
Here are the changes that I made to the recipe: Instead of roasting the asparagus in the oven at 400F, I broiled them instead as it saves me time from pre-heating the oven, saves energy and doesn’t get the house all hot. Place the oven rack about 8 inches from the heating element. Toss the asparagus with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil instead of cooking spray as directed in the recipe. Turn on the broiler and broil the asparagus 4 minutes. Rotate the asparagus by shaking the pan or using a spatula. Continue broiling until the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Continue on with the recipe and top the asparagus with a handful of almonds.
2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until tender.
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing well to coat.
I love the “photo setup” pictures. It amazes me of all that goes on around this little table that produces such a mouth watering picture! Gives me hope that I can get the same set up going to make do with what I have…
This looks yummy. i’m definately going to try it. Just a quick question, the white flakes you have in the photo…is that sliced garlic???
They are sliced almonds!
Frank – Canon 40D camera with a 60mm macro
What camera, lens, and settings are you using. NICE pictures. I do BBQ and want to produce shots with the same level of bokeh.
Mmmm Looks yummy , Asapragus is wonderful! Photos are great!
Thanks so much for the behind the scenes photo shoot. That is so informative. And the asparagus looks delicious!
Thanks for the great recipe and insightful post. I am constantly struggling with guilt about no-local food, and you bring up some great points.
They need to ship some guinea pigs from Peru. Those things were delicious 😀
It would be nice if everyone lived in a climate that allowed us to grow everything under the sun all year round. But California is too crowded as it is. (evil laugh)
Seriously, though, locavorism is great in theory but it can’t be applied in a blanket way. You can try really hard, but you’ll never be a perfect locavore.
In theory, it would be great if all of us could eat nothing but sustainably raised, locally grown food. In reality, that’s not always so easy, particularly if you live in a part of the country or world where growing produce in the winter is quite the challenge.
We can’t all be virtuous all the time. What’s most important, though, is that we try to do what we can. And we try to do a little better as each year passes.
Now THIS is awesome. I usually just put ’em in olive oil and butter, but this sounds so good.
Asparagus is on sale here……..I’m in!
The dressing sounds fabulous. Asparagus is my favorite veggie!
The widowed farmer smiles at me gratefully and whispers,
Basically the two rules that run in our household is the Pocketbook Rule and the Crazy Kids Rule. Locally grown is great, but it has to be affordable for our family, and yes sometimes when the kids stress us out, we act on the moment to keep ourselves sane. I just bought asparagus yesterday but didn’t check to see where they came from because I was in a big hurry. I like your recipe and think I might give it a try.
I’m really liking how this dressing sounds. I’ll try it on asparagus and other vegetables for sure.
Looks like a great recipe – will have to forward to my sister who LOVES asparagus!
LOVE roasted asparagus. Sometimes life is just a little too crazy…at least you’re feeding your kids vegetables!
The amount of fuel burned should also be looked at realistically per each unit of food.
For example, if a local farmer threw that box of asparagus into the back of his big Ford 350 and drove 45 minutes away and back to deliver it to the farmer’s market, the amount of fuel divided into each stalk could possibly be more than the amount per stalk of a huge cargo-load of asparagus coming from Peru.
I am not saying this to discredit the local food movement, which we completely support when we can, but everything has to be examined realistically in order to have real effect. Putting up big green flags and skipping around feeling smug about our pseudo-eco-friendly choices will not truly help the Earth in the long run. It takes real honest change to achieve that.
yup, it gets to be so tiring, but wherever we may be, i guess we just have to do our best to pitch in… and your asparagus looks so amazingly delicious 🙂
btw, an award is waiting for you at my place… 🙂
Yah, I hear ya Jaden. If I had to eat locally, I’d never be able to eat chocolate again! that would be like the worst thing imaginable! and I don’t know about you, but around these parts (in Vancouver, B.C., Canada) our temperate climate isn’t exactly conducive to Green Tea or Coffee production either. That’s like half my diet! I do my best and buy organic produce and meats locally (like the fantastic organic turkey we recently devoured at Thanksgiving!); I lug around my reusable cloth shopping bags and drink from my Sigg bottle, but sometimes there’s a point where you have to say “oh bother!”
Hi Steamy Kitchen, did I read somewhere you are Malaysian? So if you really miss malaysian ingredients like ikan bilis or something, we can always do a gift exchange program (like what I did with Shari of Whisk : A Food blog!)
Nice to meet you 🙂
Asparagus, corn and tomatoes are the three things I have a hard time buying out of season. I’ve got a bunch of asparagus soup in my freezer that I made this summer, and it will have to carry me through until spring. I’ll bookmark this recipe and save it.
just like what jack black said, “don’t judge me”…there are just those days right? take it easy steamy. more power to you!
“But instead of sending me an email, I would like to invite you over to my home, specifically at 5:15pm to babysit my tots while I run out to source my locally grown ingredients. You can lecture me about being a responsible human being all you want.
Could you also run a load of laundry while I cook dinner too?”
I’m with you! I try to eat local too, but the options are pretty limited around here. When you have to budget your time and money, it can be pretty frustrating!
BTW, when they’re finished with your laundry, I have some silver that needs polishing. 😉
Hopefully we can learn to all support each other in our efforts to eat more local foods when we can rather than judging each other on 100 percent compliance. The point is to make your choices day to day and work towards a goal, not to be considered either perfect or a total hypocrite.
We shared a weekend in a lease house away with friends. We split the shopping and cooking. One person “needed” strawberries for a dish. Locally available? Nope. Did we kick up a fuss about buying strawberries from out of our area?
NO. We shared the dish, thanked our friend for preparing it for us, and had a lovely dinner.
Eat local when you can and talk to your boys about why you think that is important to try to do. That is PLENTY!
I had never heard of the term locavore until earlier this year. I agree that it’s a great philosophy, but not always so practical in real life!
Love asparagus this way, Jaden, it’s been my favorite for years 🙂
Here are my thoughts on buying locally. I would love to be able to afford it and also have the time to do it. But unfortunally with 2 teenage sons to feed and often friends, I already spend over $1000 a month in grocery, so it’s important for me to buy when produce are on special. So I don’t really care were they come from because at the end of the day we eat very well in this house. I can’t afford to pay the locals the money they are asking me for their fresh produce. I buy from locals if I think the price is right.
I totally understand that dilemma. What some locavores forget is that a couple moments like that are still way better than not caring or doing anything at all. You try to eat locally and that’s what is important. Every little bit helps.
Well, even though I knew the eat local thing is good to endorse, I can say that I appreciate that you are eating asparagus from Peru! They have great crops, great produce and every bit helps continue the exportation from Peru to the world. Hope you enjoyed it!
I like cooking simple and healthy recipes (as long as there is no complaint from my hubby n son). Your version is definitely one of them! I luv it!
Nice way to enjoy some asparagus!
Try as you might, being supermom is super ridiculous. I know, cause I try myself (I hear you about laundry!). I am working toward being better about buying locally too. I used to buy all those fruits and veggies from all points of the planet, but now I think, what’s in season? If they are putting summer fruit in front of me and it’s winter, well, I know it’s been shipped from far, far away. The one item, tho, I can’t forgo because of distance, is bananas. No way do they even grow anywhere near the Northwest.
I think when it comes to buying locally, you do the best that you can and change old habits to healthier/tastier new habits when you can. It’s a step in the right direction for you, your kids, and, hopefully it will leave a smaller carbon footprint. Every little bit helps.
I think we all recognize the time constraints that everyone battles and we just need to do the best we can – even if that means asparagus in October.
But there is no way that your food dollar will ever reach a small farmer in Peru – I’ve been there. Your dollar is going to a giant corporation (probably US owned) and to shipping companies. So maybe that scenario is just a bit of green washing or maybe it was for fun, I don’t know.
So eat what you want, but if you have enjoyed an heirloom tomato then it is the people who are working for a safe, local, and just food system that you owe thanks to.
I hear you, Jaden. I think doing the best we can whenever we can is the answer.