Our helpful guide offers so much, especially if you're new to cooking asparagus, including step-by-step instructions.
Asparagus is very simple to make, but it can be tricky.
The first couple times I made it, it turned out mushy (boo-hoo).
But hey, I was a new vegetarian and I didn't know much about veggies, so sue me. ;)
You need to know going in that this is a VERY delicate veggie. Overcooking by just a minute or two can lead to disaster. And it is usually one of the more expensive veggies out there, so it's important to know how to prepare it correctly.
Each year I can't wait for the season to begin, which lasts just 2 short months (starting mid-April). That's when it is at its most tender and delectable. After that, you might be able to find it, but it starts to get tough and woody.
So when the season starts, jump at the chance to make it as much as you can.
Asparagus is one of the few veggies that really don't need a lot to make them delicious. In fact, sometimes just a squeeze of lemon and a little sprinkle of kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper is all you need to flavor it to perfection. And sometimes I do just that!
Here's what you'll discover below:
When I'm in the produce section and spot organic asparagus my heart practically leaps out of my chest. Huge, huge fan!
But since this is NOT one of the top 5 pesticide-laden veggies that should be purchased organic, it's okay to buy non-organic if you're in a pinch. (If you're interested in organics, it will be the least expensive during its peak season.)
Let me just state here and now, if you CAN afford to buy organic, you'll support organic farmers AND be rewarded with asparagus that tastes soooooooo much better than the non-organic variety.
Okay, so back to the produce section. The first thing I look to are the tops of the asparagus -- do they look like they're in good condition? Or do they look like my wavy hair looks after walking in the wind -- crazy ass!
If some tips have bits and pieces that are sort of sticking out all over the place, like they're shredded, I'd pass on them. They really should be nice and neat and tight.
Next up for my Sassy inspection are the stalks. These range in thickness from very thin stalks to very fat. If I have a choice between large, thick stalks or the smaller variety, I usually gravitate towards the medium-sized and smaller. (But hey, if the fatties are all there is, I'm buying them!)
I believe MOST of the time the farmers group asparagus together by size. And that's good, because YOU want to be sure the stalks you buy are all approximately the same thickness so they cook in the same amount of time.
The next thing I look to are the bottoms of the spears. If you see ridges in the stems or the cut area is very dry, then put them down and keep on moving. You also want to be sure it has a snap to it, so as with some things in life "just say no" if it's limpy or wimpy. ;)
Most asparagus is green (although there are also white and purple varieties). So when selecting, look for those with a rich green color. The famous "woodiness" of the stalks is caused when the veggie has aged and the sugars in the plant have converted to starch.
If not using immediately, store your asparagus standing up in a glass or pitcher with a VERY SMALL amount of water. Alternatively, wet a paper towel and wrap around the cut ends, place in a plastic bag and seal tightly. It should keep for up to 2 days (but, of course, it won't last that long before you devour it, right?).
Personally, I soak my asparagus to clean just as I do other vegetables.
But you do not absolutely have to, because gently rubbing the stalks while holding under running water should be sufficient, turning the spears upside down to get in between the tips too.
Tender, thin spears are usually edible from top to bottom -- simply trim the cut ends.
Medium to thick stalks need to be prepped just a bit before cooking by breaking off the ends at the point where they get tough.
To find this sweet spot, hold the cut end in one hand and the middle of the spear in the other and...
...bend until it snaps. (OH, SNAP!)
Discard the cut end.
Before cooking your asparagus, you can cut the spears into small pieces, if desired. Many times it is left whole though, depending on the finished dish and the presentation you're after.
Okay, let me just get something off my chest right here and now. I am completely dumbfounded when I read instructions that tell you to peel your asparagus. WTF? There is no need to peel! Sheesh. :-/
Here are the cooking techniques we use and recommend for asparagus.
Click the one you'd like to learn more about for complete cooking instructions.
"Can I steam my asparagus at home and will they preserve for the dinner later in the day?"
Welllll, if you steam it ahead of time, it will likely be cold and turn to mush by the time you get to your destination.
You might steam it, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process, then use in a side dish or salad that is best served cold like this Cold Asparagus with Mustard Dressing.
Learn how to create your very own asparagus recipes by using your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectlly.
"Can blanched asparagus be frozen?"
Yes, it certainly can be frozen after blanching.
Just be sure your vegetable is completely free of moisture before placing in the freezer (well wrapped! - a food sealer works beautifully), or you could end up with freezer burn.
I also recommend writing the date on the package/container as well and use within 3 months for best taste and results.
Create your very own asparagus recipe with some of your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectly.
So how might you use the Asparagus Flavor Matches? Let's go over a couple example.
Let's say you just steamed your asparagus. While you can serve as-is and allow their unique flavor to take center stage, you can instead add various ingredients which match asparagus to complement and bring out the natural flavor.
You can start by squeezing a little fresh lemon juice over the top. Sprinkle a little dill, some salt and pepper, and you have a perfectly delicious and very simple asparagus dish.
If you have a few minutes to spare, you might make a creamy sauce to pour over the top. Start with a base of cashews (pre-soaked, if possible for easier digestion), add a little miso (really adds a fantastic depth of flavor), some tarragon, onion and garlic powders, a little Agave or other sweetener, and finish off with a little salt and pepper. Add water slowly as you blend until you reach the proper consistency. Taste, and adjust flavors as needed.
Also, you can bring lots of flavor in with other whole food ingredients. For instance, you might cook your asparagus with some sliced shallots, mushrooms, and ginger -- or cook these together separately and pour over the top of your plated asparagus.
Stretch those creative muscles and have fun with it. You can do no wrong.
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