Fresh asparagus stalks are a welcome sight in spring. They are now making appearances at local farmers markets. Even though asparagus lends an elegant touch to any meal, it’s easy to prepare.
Spring shoots are tender, usually without a tough, fibrous stem. The best way to store for freshness is to wrap the stem ends in a wet paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, though if you’re going to eat them within a couple of days you won’t need to do this.
To prepare, you have a few options:
- Add asparagus to a microwave-safe dish, add a couple tablespoons water, cover and microwave 3 to 5 minutes. Add a pat of butter and a splash of lemon juice and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Another option is to add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a large pan (large enough to lay the asparagus in it). Cook the asparagus on medium high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning the asparagus often so all spears cook. Add minced garlic during the last minute. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper or shaved parmesan.
- Roasted or grilled asparagus is also delicious. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 15 minutes, then turn and cook 10 more minutes until tender but crisp.
- Shaved or ribboned asparagus is yet another option, particularly for thick spears. Cut off the tough ends. Use a vegetable peeler to peel, starting from underneath the lowest flower to the end. Continue all around the stalk until you have a pile of ribbons. Drizzle and toss with a light vinaigrette. Or heat in a scant amount of olive oil. Toss with Parmesan cheese.
- Asparagus can be a stir-fry ingredient and pairs well with mushrooms and spring peas. Leave as spears or cut into 2-inch pieces. Saute in a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil. Add fresh thyme, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss with cooked pasta, if you’d like.
Enjoy this delicious, nutritious spring delight while it’s available locally!