It’s Spring, so that means asparagus. Distinctive, delicious, and sophisticated asparagus is a seasonal treat in my kitchen. Taste it raw and you’ll appreciate its grassy, green notes and distinct flavor.
So, what is it? Asparagus is the new, fresh growth shoot that springs out of the ground from the underground root stock of an herbaceous perennial plant. The mature plant is a fluffy 3 foot high plant with many stems, tiny leaves, and little flowers. We only eat the new, tender emerging stalks – nothing from the maturing plant. Asparagus is a European plant in origin, though it is grown and enjoyed around the world.
Most asparagus is green, though in northern Europe white asparagus is common. This is regular asparagus that has been allowed to sprout in the dark. This keeps the plant from producing chlorophyll, which is what makes it green. There is also a purple variety developed in Italy.
Three bits of trivia:
1. Asparagus does make your pee smell funny (here’s why)
2. If you take a sip of wine after eating a bite of asparagus it alters the mouth’s taste perception, making the wine taste oddly sweet, metallic, or bad. For good wine pairings with asparagus, go here.
3. Miss Manners herself says it’s fine to pick up asparagus with your fingers, even at a super fancy dinner. Who knew?
Asparagus is a nutrition WIN – loaded with nutrients, low in calories, and can help control blood sugar. It is delicious paired with goat cheese, lemon, garlic, mushrooms, pork, chicken, eggs – lots of foods. Asparagus is super fast to prepare. In fact, it is delicious raw – especially shaved in a salad. But what ever you do, DON’T over cook the asparagus. Perfectly cooked asparagus is a delight — overcooked it becomes slimy, stringy, and strong tasting. There are many good recipes out there, so I’m just going to tell you how to cook asparagus for eating plain, or with a light sauce.
Basic Cooked Asparagus
one bunch fresh asparagus
Rinse the asparagus, and cut off the stems where they seem tough. This is a judgement call on your part. Most asparagus sold in stores is pretty much all tender, so just cutting off the last 1/2 inch or so of the stock will be good enough. I don’t peel my asparagus.
Put 1/2 inch water in a large pan with lid and heat to boiling. Put the asparagus in the boiling water all at once, cover pan with lid, and cook, covered, on medium heat for up to 4 minutes for regular stalks, 2 – 3 minutes for thin stalks — not a second longer! Immediately drain the asparagus, and rinse in cold water or plunge in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Serve at warm temp immediately, or cool for later serving, perhaps with a lemon aioli. Serves about 4.