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Eating for Life | Asparagus salad has a saucy secret ingredient

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA
The Kansas City Star

Pomegranate molasses, a sweet and sour ingredient common to Middle Eastern cuisine, is trendy with the gourmet crowd.

May S. Bsisu, author of “The Arab Table: Recipes & Culinary Traditions” (Harper Collins, 2005), describes the syrup as “a thick, dark burgundy liquid with the consistency of melted chocolate.” On restaurant menus it is often referred to as a gastrique. The tart, concentrated flavoring agent is traditionally used to enhance the flavor of dips, meat, vegetable dishes and even desserts.

The Star’s Roasted Asparagus Salad With Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette uses the molasses to add punch to tender, roasted asparagus. Pomegranate molasses also is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Depending on the brand, a 2-teaspoon serving contains between 80 and 90 calories and 6 grams of sugar. Pomegranate is commonly paired with walnuts and feta, ingredients also common to Middle Eastern dishes.

We have provided more than one nutritional analysis for this recipe. While the calorie count is low, the percentage of fat is higher than the standard 30 percent or less, the typical recommendation for this column. Keep in mind not all fats are the same: Walnuts are high in heart-healthy omega 3. The soft tang of goat cheese is an addition that balances the tartness of the vinaigrette. But you may eliminate them if you choose.

•  Shopping tip: Pomegranate molasses, also sometimes labeled grenadine molasses, is available at Middle Eastern groceries such as the Olive Café & Bakery or Whole Foods. Cortas is a popular brand. You can also find recipes on the Internet detailing how to make your own.

•  Storage tips: Pomegranate molasses does not need to be refrigerated after opening; it will last in the pantry for up to a year.

Asparagus is best cooked the same day it is purchased. If you must keep asparagus, store in the refrigerator standing upright in an inch of water. Be sure to cover container with a plastic bag.

•  Cooking tip: Toasting walnuts intensifies their flavor. To toast, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet then bake in a 375-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.

• Variation: Carrots make a fun variation, either in addition to the asparagus or in place of it. To prepare, peel and trim 1/2 pound small carrots. Cut each in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Spray with nonstick coating. Roast about 15 to 20 minutes or until just fork tender and golden brown. Arrange carrots on salad and drizzle with dressing.

Roasted Asparagus Salad With Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

1 pound asparagus

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 cups torn salad greens

1 red bell pepper, seeded and very thinly sliced

1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted, optional

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stem asparagus and peel, if desired. Arrange on a baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Roast 10 minutes or until crisp tender. Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk together pomegranate molasses and vinegar. While whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil. Whisk in mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Arrange salad greens and red pepper slices on 4 salad plates. Arrange roasted asparagus on each salad. Drizzle with pomegranate vinaigrette. Sprinkle with walnuts and goat cheese.

Per serving: 253 calories (58 percent of calories from fat), 17 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 63 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Per serving, without walnuts or goat cheese: 174 calories (51 percent of calories from fat), 11 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 39 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed exclusively for The Star by Kansas City-based professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss. . To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, call 816-234-4347 or send email to jsilva@kcstar.com.

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