Asparagus 101

16 05 2010

It’s no secret that I love, love, love asparagus.  Each spring, I anxiously await the arrival of local asparagus in the markets and then spend the next six weeks or so thinking up new ways to enjoy it.  Luckily, asparagus is low in calories and packed with vitamins so there’s no reason not to indulge!

Local asparagus in season has a sweetness and vibrant flavour that isn’t found in imported spears that have travelled hundreds of miles.  If you don’t believe me, do a blind taste test with imported asparagus vs. local – I guarantee you will be able to tell the difference.  The best way to enjoy asparagus at its peak is simply cooked and dressed with just a bit of butter or olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  A squeeze of fresh lemon is also delicious.

How to Prepare Asparagus for Cooking

Asparagus doesn’t require much prep work to get it ready.  Wash the spears and dry them thoroughly.  The woody ends are tough so it’s best to remove them.  If you hold an asparagus spear and bend it, it will naturally break where the tough part ends. However, I usually just trim the ends – cut where the ends turn from woody and pale to green and vibrant, usually an inch or two from the bottom.  The spears can be peeled if the skin is tough and stringy, which sometimes happens with thicker spears. However, I usually don’t bother.

How to Cook Asparagus

Asparagus cooks quickly so it’s a great way to add a vegetable to the dinner menu. It’s also very versatile so it can be used in soups, lasagnas, pastas, tarts, quiches or stir fries.  There are a number of ways it can be cooked:

Roasted: Toss asparagus with a bit of oil and roast in an even layer on a baking sheet at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes.

Steamed: Steam spears in a steamer basket or small amount of water until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Grilled: Prepare a hot grill and brush asparagus with a small amount of oil.  Grill for about 2 to 3 minutes per side (you might want to use a grill pan, to keep the spears from falling through the grate).

Stir-Fried: Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet on high heat.  Add asparagus and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add a tablespoon of water or broth and cook until just tender, about 3 to 4 more minutes.

Asparagus Recipes

For more great asparagus recipe ideas, check out some of my archived recipes (including a couple of new ones!):

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

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