Asparagus is a harbinger of spring. Those sweet stalks are a perennial plant. I once had asparagus growing wild in my backyard, but it disappeared, to my disappointment. But don't worry - you can make wonderful recipes when you start with asparagus.
There is a raging controversy about whether thin or thick asparagus is more desirable and tender. Here's the truth: it doesn't matter! Properly cooked asparagus will be tender.
Choose the thickness you prefer. For really thick stems, you may want to peel the bottom third with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler for most tender results.
When you purchase asparagus, look for smooth and firm stalks with tightly closed heads, or buds. Once the buds start opening (called "ferning out"), the asparagus will be tough. Look for brightly colored, dark green stalks. White asparagus is a rare delicacy; it's grown by covering the stalks with soil as they mature. It's milder and a bit more tender than green asparagus. Fresh asparagus is quite perishable; wrap in damp paper towels and store in the fridge. Use within two to three days.
You can also purchase frozen and canned asparagus. While I love frozen asparagus, I don't use canned because I find the texture too soft. But canned asparagus is a great choice if you want to make cream of asparagus soup.
To prepare asparagus, I like to put the stalks in a bowl full of water and let it stand for 1-2 minutes.
Sometimes asparagus is slightly sandy because of the soil it grows in. Then bend the stalks until they snap; use the tougher ends in asparagus soup or discard them.
There are several easy ways to cook asparagus. I prefer to simmer it in water until tender, or roast it in the oven until tender and crisp.
You can also grill asparagus or microwave or steam it. Cook until crisp-tender; that is, the asparagus yields to the bite, but still retains a bit of crunch in the center.
Enjoy these easy and delicious asparagus recipes and savor the return of spring!
Start with Asparagus
- Chicken Tomato and Asparagus Stir-Fry
This simple five ingredient recipe is a wonderful way to welcome asparagus back onto your table. It takes about 20 minutes to make and tastes like something from a restaurant.
- Asparagus and Red Bell Peppers
A simple stir-fry lets you appreciate the flavors of the fresh veggies in this delicious side dish. Serve it alongside everything from chicken to steak to fish.
- Strawberry Asparagus Green Salad
Add asparagus to a classic strawberry and spinach salad for a delicious twist.
- Roasted Asparagus
Roasting asparagus brings out its sweetness and creates the most wonderful texture. I sometimes like to sprinkle the asparagus with shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese before roasting.
- Tender Asparagus
This is my method for simmering asparagus. Tossed with butter, salt, and pepper, it's the perfect side dish.
- Asparagus Tarts
These cute little tarts are the perfect appetizer for a spring dinner party. They take about 30 minutes to make and the taste is incredible.
- Chicken and Asparagus Stir-Fry
This dish is deliberately kept simple so you can enjoy the fresh flavors of asparagus and red bell pepper. You can use this basic formula with lots of other foods too. Substitute pork tenderloin for the chicken; use mushrooms instead of the bell pepper, or add some sliced zucchini or summer squash.
- Lemon Chicken and Pasta
This recipe is the perfect antidote after a long winter. It's elegant and beautiful and so delicious, but easy to prepare.