Employ nature’s natural flavor booster in these two recipes
Though we’re born with more than 9,000 taste buds packed into our tongues, by the time we turn 50, they start to beat an alarmingly hasty retreat. The taste buds that remain begin to shrink, leaving us with a slowly decreasing ability to enjoy the full impact of sweet, salty, sour and bitter-tasting foods.
To combat this deficit, some people will turn to the saltshaker, over-salting their food in an attempt to add flavor. But by age 50, most of us have also been warned of the negative impact of excess sodium on high blood pressure and heart health.
One way to boost tastes naturally and without adding salt is to use fresh herbs, fruits and juices. This first recipe—lemon asparagus spaghetti—uses fresh basil for a natural herbal punch. But the star of the dish is lemon, both juice and zest. The bright pop of lemon imparts a fresh burst of flavor that complements the woody taste of asparagus and adds depth to the pasta.
This recipe pulls together in minutes with only a handful of ingredients. As a side dish, it pairs well with roasted or grilled beef. Toss in chicken or shrimp with the pasta and asparagus for a light yet satisfying main course.
And while we’re lingering over the luscious taste of lemon, let’s talk about the lemon poppy tea bread. A slice from this anytime loaf makes a perfect accompaniment with tea as a mid-afternoon snack. Or serve it as a light and tasty way to end the evening meal. But my favorite is to toast a slice and drizzle it with a bit of honey or butter in the morning and savor it over a cup of coffee. Its gorgeous golden yellow color is punctuated by tiny dots of poppy seeds that add a wee pop of crunch as you bite in.
⇓ Lemon Asparagus Spaghetti
8 ounces fresh asparagus
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2–3 large lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard, then drop into a saucepan of boiling water for two to four minutes, depending on thickness, until spears are bright green, but not limp. Shock in ice water. Diagonally slice spears into one-inch pieces and set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan (reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish) and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Toss the pasta and asparagus in the lemon sauce, using the reserved cooking liquid, if needed, to moisten.
Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest, remaining Parmesan and chopped basil.
⇓ Lemon Poppy Tea Bread
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
For Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Butter and flour a 10-inch bread pan.
On medium speed of an electric mixer, beat butter slowly adding sugar until combined and creamy, scraping the bowl as you go.
Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as you add.
Add the lemon zest, vanilla and poppy seeds.
Sift dry ingredients together—flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the sifted ingredients to the batter alternating with the yogurt and mix just until smooth. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45–50 minutes.
While cake is cooking, in medium saucepan, bring lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.
When cake is cooked, remove from oven. Keeping the cake in the pan, poke several holes in the top with a skewer or toothpick. Pour all but two tablespoons of syrup evenly over the cake.
Let cake cool completely in the pan, then turn out on a cake plate. Brush the top and sides with the remaining lemon syrup. Store at room temperature, covered.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at candacekaru.com.