Spicy Tuesday – Menestra de Verdures – Black Pepper (Green Beans, Asparagus and Artichokes)
If you are looking for a delicious and different side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner, here it is. We love the combination of flavors in this easy to fix veggie dish, and how impressive it looks on the table.
Menestra is not only full of gorgeous bright colors, it’s full of nutrition, too! The main ingredients, the beans, asparagus and artichokes all bring different nutrients to the recipe. The green beans provide lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin which are all important antioxidants for our bodies. And amazing asparagus is loaded with folate, vitamins A, C, E and K. It even has a trace mineral that helps insulin transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Finally, the artichokes are packed with antioxidants and ranks number 7 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.
Just because the only seasoning in the dish is salt and pepper doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flavor. Salt adds flavor, and pepper does, too! Pepper with its kick of spiciness has been used in cooking since antiquity and is the world’s most traded spice. It’s native to South India, although Vietnam is today’s largest producer and exporter. Our best culinary tip for Black Pepper is: ALWAYS grind it fresh. Those little metal tins or glass bottles of pre-ground pepper lack the flavor and spicy kick of fresh ground.
Pepper also brings lots of goodness to our healthy cooking. Peppercorns are composed of a health benefiting essential oil called piperine. This volatile oil gives spicy pungent character to the pepper and provides the cancer fighting component. Another way in which pepper is beneficial is by providing health to the digestive tract. And remember over 70% of a healthy immune system begins in the gut so add pepper generously to this fabulous recipe!
Menestra de Verdures
(Green Beans, Asparagus and Artichokes)
1 LB French Green Beans
1 LB Asparagus Spears, Sliced into at least three pieces
2 Pkgs Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Defrosted
2 TB Olive Oil
2 Oz Chopped Serrano Ham (Smoked Proscuitto can be substituted)
½ Cup Minced Red Onion
2 Garlic Cloves, Grated
2 TB Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Vegetable Stock
1 TB Lemon Zest
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Blanch the green beans and asparagus by dipping them in boiling water and then dropping them in a bowl of ice water.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and cook the ham over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until golden, add in the garlic and cook and stir for a minute. Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add in the vegetables and remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges.