Cooking Fresh Asparagus
I love asparagus… fresh asparagus, that is… I won’t even buy the stuff in a can… I’d rather go without than buy it. It comes in either a white or green variety. The green are more readily available but white asparagus is not as uncommon as it once was. The basic difference between the two is that the white taste more delicate and are less likely to be bitter.
My first experience with white asparagus was as a child when we went to Europe on a family vacation, I fell in love and have been in love ever since…. the taste was fabulous… absolutely divine… it made such an impression on me… for a child to love it that much… you know it had to be good…
The other major find during that trip was large deep red fresh strawberries served with Chantilly Crème… it began a life-long love affair with strawberries… but that’s for another post.
Asparagus are sold in bunches of approximately 15-20 spears… one serving would be 3-5 spears. Make what you need only and store the rest in the fridge for another meal… they do not reheat well. They keep fairly well in the fridge in a plastic bag for about 3 days…
When choosing green asparagus, make sure the stalks are green in color not pale… there should be no more than an inch of white at the bottom… ideally a ½ inch or so is best.
The stalks should be firm and not droop… they should look succulent and not dried out. You can find them with very thin stalks or thicker stalks… it’s a matter of preference… some people prefer thicker stalks… When I grill them I like the thicker stalks.. otherwise I prefer the thinner ones.
Preparing the Asparagus for Cooking:
Rinse the asparagus in cool water. Trim them by cutting away the tough part from the tender part. You can determine the place to cut it by bending the stalk until it snaps…. the stalk will naturally break where the tough part begins… usually about an inch or so from the bottom….you can snap them one by one or use the first one as a guide as to where to cut the rest in the bunch…. They should all be about the same length.
There are a number of ways to cook asparagus… I like to steam mine, which is what I most often do… but sautéing them in a little garlic butter is wonderful also…. I have grilled them as well…. which is so quick and easy … tastes fabulous … you will think you died and went to heaven.
You can steam them on the stove top or the microwave. I personally prefer the microwave since it’s so easy… but both methods produce the same excellent results.
Place the asparagus in a microwaveable dish with a lid… add about 1-2 tablespoons water.
Cover and microwave on high for about 3 minutes for thick stalks and 2 – 2 ½ minutes for thin stalks or until desired tenderness... time will depend greatly on the power of your microwave oven.
You can check the tenderness by stabbing one with a fork. If you don’t have a microwaveable dish with a lid… cover with waxed paper.
Stove Top Method:
To steam on top of the stove… place cleaned and trimmed asparagus in a metal steamer set in a pan with enough water to just reach the steamer bottom but not immerse the asparagus.
Heat so steam begins… steam for approximately 9 to 10 minutes… time will vary depending on the thickness of the stalks.
Test the stalks by stabbing them with a fork… remove from steamer when the desired tenderness is reached.
*Check periodically to be sure all the water hasn’t dried up… add more hot water as needed.
Preheat the grill to high heat.
Lightly brush extra virgin olive oil on the cleaned and trimmed asparagus.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
TIP: I like to use a vegetable grilling basket to grill vegetables… it keeps them from falling and it’s easier to remove the vegetables from the basket than directly from the grill.
Lay the prepared asparagus in the grilling basket.
Grill for about 2 to 3 minutes for a crisp and slightly tender asparagus… grill longer if you prefer it more tender.
In a skillet, over medium high heat, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil .. add 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves (depends on how much garlic you like) add the cleaned and trimmed asparagus…
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cook thick stalks for 5-10 minutes…. very crunchy would be for 5 minutes…8 minutes for tender but a bit crunchy and 10 minutes for very tender. If you’re making thin stalks cut the cooking time in half then test by stabbing with a fork..
Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Use a high quality extra virgin olive oil because of the high heat tolerance of it… if you use regular olive oil then lower the heat a bit. (Source: Olive Oil Source)
If you want to sauté these in butter… lower the temperature since the butter will brown at a high cooking temp or use equal parts butter and olive oil. The olive oil will temper it and raise the temp at which it will burn.
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