Every year around this time I get questions about how to cook asparagus.  Don’t know why, just happens.

So to go on record for posterity and eternity, here are my thoughts on asparagus (and if you’re one of those people who turns up a nose, I ask you to think again).

Firstly and formostly (yes- spell check and I both know that’s not a word), forget right now that canned asparagus even exists.  Even if you’re having a dry spell on the fresh stuff, never, ever, ever turn to the can.  I think there are support groups available if you’re having trouble with this.

Buying

It’s true what they say about studying the tippy-tops of asparagus.  Look for tight, perky tops (and get your mind out of the gutter).  Wilted, gushy tops are the signal to step away.  You want tight and perky tops. Check?

Big ‘n Fat vs. Lean ‘n Mean

Big and fat usually = tough and fibrous.  But there is hope, and we’ll discuss that in a minute.  If they have perky tops and you’re asparagus ravenous, go ahead and purchase.  Details shortly.

Lean and mean = tender, crisp and easy to prepare (as long as they have – you guessed it – perky tops).

Prep

Fill a sink or a big bowl with fresh, cold water and dump in the asparagus.  Let it languorously soak for a good five minutes.  Drain and rinse.

For lean and mean stalks, simply snap off the tough bottom portion by holding stalk in one hand, grasping the bottom end between thumb and index finger, and bend until it pops off.  Asparagus is real smart.  It knows where to snap off at the tough part.  Amazing!

For big and fat stalks, you’re going to need to grab a sharp paring knife and pare down the stalk to the more tender park.  Then cut off the fibrous ends.

Roast or steam?

Big and fat = best for roasting

Lean and mean = best for steaming

So how?

Here are my favorite ingredients for cooking asparagus.  Funny thing – you can mix and match any of the below to make great asparagus.

  • Diced red and yellow bell peppers
  • Cavendar’s seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • butter
  • minced garlic
  • minced red onion

Roasting ideas for big and fat

  • Drizzle olive oil over the stalks and rub them around until entirely coated in a lite layer.  Place in a single layer in a Pyrex baking dish.  Sprinkle with Cavendars, roast 5-8 minutes at 350 degrees (please pre-heat the oven).  Test for fork tenderness.  Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.
  • Pour some olive oil in a big plastic bag.  Add minced garlic (the kind in the jar is fine), a pinch or two of Kosher salt, and some melted butter (that’s right – butter).  Dump in the asparagus – shake wildly – remove, layer in pan and proceed as above.

Steaming ideas for lean and mean

Lay asparagus spears in single layer of pyrex baking dish.  A cool way to do this is half and half – place half of the asparagus, cut end to the outside of the pan, and then meet on the other side with another row of asparagus, cut end out.  Seems to protect the tender young ends.

In a bottle (or something handy), mix 8 tbsp. of water with 3 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, pinch of kosher salt, and about 1/4 cup of minced red and yellow bell pepper.  When thoroughly mixed, pour over asparagus.  Seal dish with good quality plastic wrap.  Stick it in the microwave, and nuke for about 2.5 to 3 minutes on full power.  Allow to set for about 3 minutes, then carefully remove the wrap (there’s some mighty hot steam in there – don’t burn yourself).  Then serve either warm or at room temperature.

Leftovers?

Make a marinate of olive oil, cavendars, minced red onion and either some balsamic or red wine vinegar.  Marinate overnight and then chop up to use in a salad (yum!).

Celebrating Asparagus Aspirations today.

Please remember to Celebrate Something Everyday!

Hint/tip:  Looking for a neat-o and nifty dinner party favor?  Purchase some of these little cuties and mix about 1 tsp. Cavendars seasoning per favor into olive oil, fill and present – tasty and useful! 😉

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