How to Cook Fresh Asparagus
I like several super foods, and asparagus is one of my favorites, so we enjoy several asparagus recipes. Why is asparagus considered by many to be a super food? It’s a super food because it’s packed with so much good stuff! It’s a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K. the healthy B vitamins are well presented, too, including B6, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate, and pantothenic acid. It also supplies essential minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, selenium, potassium, and chromium. Consuming asparagus is a good way to get more healthy fiber into your diet – something few of us get enough of. Even better, asparagus is low in carbohydrates, sugars, and calories, and it’s practically fat free. Asparagus also contains something called “glutathione,” a tripeptide that seems to help prevent the development of cancer cells. You learn more about glutathione in the video under this paragraph. In addition to all the great health benefits of asparagus, it tastes great! Check out the following tips on how to cook fresh asparagus and the six asparagus recipes I’ve included here.
How To Cook Fresh Asparagus
Before we talk about how to cook fresh asparagus and specific asparagus recipes, let’s first discuss a few pointers on buying asparagus. The vegetable is available in cans, in fresh bundles, and as frozen. The fresh and frozen versions are far superior in taste and in texture, as canned asparagus is often “mushy.” In my opinion, the canned type should be used in casseroles, in frittatas, in quiches, and in asparagus soup, IF you’re not using the fresh or frozen version. Even in those asparagus recipes, fresh or frozen is better in taste, but the texture isn’t as important. I think the best flavor comes from fresh asparagus, but the frozen is a lot better than the canned. If you haven’t tried the microwave steamable bags, you might want to give them a try, they’re super convenient, and they’re quite tasty.
When you’re shopping for fresh asparagus, make sure all the spears in a bundle are about the same size in diameter. That will provide more uniform cooking. Many cooks prefer to use medium-sized stalks for most asparagus recipes, which are about a half-inch in diameter. The heads should be tightly closed, and the stalks should have no wrinkles. Fresh asparagus should have a bright green color, too. Make sure the asparagus you buy is either refrigerated or has been placed on ice to keep it cold.
Before cooking asparagus, the ends will need to be removed. They’re usually tough and fibrous, so you’ll want to snap or cut them off with a knife. Removing the bottom two inches is usually sufficient. Asparagus retains more of its earthy flavor when it’s cooked quickly, so be careful not to overcook the spears. When cooked, asparagus should be a nice green color, and it should be tender yet somewhat firm.
Asparagus is more versatile than you might think. Asparagus recipes can range from cold dishes like salads to hot dishes like casseroles. It can even be pickled. Because the stalks or spears are so attractive, you can make asparagus recipes that are very visually appealing, which makes them great for serving on special occasions and when you have guests over for dinner.
I’m including a few of the most popular asparagus recipes in this article. One is for roasted asparagus, one is for simple steamed asparagus, and one is for sautéed asparagus. I’ve also included a recipe for grilled asparagus, which is especially tasty, and my recipe for asparagus soup is wonderful on a chilly night. The highlight of my asparagus recipes here, however, is my recipe for baked asparagus in pastry. I hope you like it!
Asparagus isn’t a bland vegetable – it has a lot of natural flavor on its own. Of course, you might want to add some seasoning to your asparagus recipes, too. What seasonings, herbs and spices go well with asparagus? I really like to use lemon juice, as it seems to “brighten up” the flavor of the spears. I also like to use parsley, garlic, black pepper, white pepper, chervil, cumin, lemon juice, tarragon, thyme, mint, chives, rosemary, and scallions. Believe it or not, ginger also gives a nice flavor to an asparagus recipe. When it comes to oils and fats, try using butter, olive oil, or bacon drippings with your asparagus recipes.
Roasted asparagus is one of my favorite ways to cook asparagus. For this asparagus recipe, I like to use stalks that are ½-inch thick or a little larger. After rinsing a bunch of the stalks, trim the ends and lay the spears on paper towels. They need to be very dry. Line a shallow baking sheet with foil and place the spears on the sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. I use my hand to sort of toss the stalks in the oil to ensure that each is kissed by the oil. Next, sprinkle the asparagus with salt, white pepper, and just a pinch of ground thyme. Place thin lemon slices on top. Roast asparagus in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Roasted asparagus rates high on the “yum” scale!
Sautéed Asparagus Recipe
Sautéed asparagus is yummy! It’s pretty quick and easy, too. I use my old cast iron skillet for this purpose, but you can use any type of skillet or frying pan. To make one bunch of sautéed asparagus, rinse spears and trim ends. Dry well. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet and add asparagus and your favorite herbs and spices. By the way, I like garlic, ginger, chervil, tarragon, thyme, cumin, chives, mint, parsley, and rosemary with this asparagus recipe. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then cover pot and continue cooking for about 8-12 minutes longer, until asparagus reaches desired tenderness.
This baked asparagus is both delicious and attractive, perfect for company. In fact, you might want to add it to your Thanksgiving recipes and Christmas recipes. It’s not difficult to make, either, and it’s pretty darn quick. To make the baked asparagus and pastry bundle more attractive, buy an extra can of roll dough to make pastry cutouts. Since this is going with my Thanksgiving recipes, I used small leaf-shaped cookie cutters. Place the cutouts on top of the bundles before baking.
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- 40 fresh asparagus spears
- 1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
- melted butter for drizzling
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Trim asparagus stalks and boil for 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- Place 5 stalks on the large end of each crescent roll. Roll bundles up tightly, leaving the point tucked underneath.
- Place pastry bundles on an ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle exposed ends of asparagus with melted butter and bake at 375 degrees for 13 minutes, or until pastry is light brown.
- While the bundles are baking, make the sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet and add pecans. Sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and tarragon and stir.
- Pour contents of pan into a microwave-safe dish. Stir in cream, sugar, and salt and pepper. Heat in microwave until sauce is hot.
- Spoon a small amount of sauce onto plate and place baked asparagus in pastry on top.
Oftentimes, when people are just learning how to cook asparagus, they turn to their vegetable steamer. If you don’t have such a device, you can still make steamed asparagus. Just use a tall pot that has a fairly tight-fitting lid. I know I told you earlier to trim the woody portions of the stalks before cooking asparagus, but in this case, disregard that advice. The ends of the stalks will help keep your steamed asparagus from getting overcooked because the tough parts will keep the tender part out of the direct hot water.
For this asparagus recipe, rinse a bunch of fresh asparagus and tie it just beneath the heads with string. Place another loop of string near the base of the stalks. Fill a tall pot with about two inches of water and bring to a boil. I like to add a little lemon juice to the water, but you might not. Stand asparagus bunch in water and place lid on pot. Cook for 6-7 minutes, then test for doneness.
Have you ever tried asparagus soup? I’m not talking about the canned version – I mean homemade asparagus soup. It’s rich and tasty, with a velvety texture. The pale green color will look nice with your other Thanksgiving recipes on your holiday table, too.
How “chunky” you want your recipe for asparagus soup to be is up to you. I usually puree most of the soup, but I also slice some of the spears to add a little more texture. I like to save a few tips for garnishing, too.
Recipe For Asparagus Soup
1 pound fresh asparagus
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
4 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon black pepper
Salt, to taste
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Milk, as needed
Directions: Trim ends from asparagus and discard. Slice stalks into one-inch sections and simmer in chicken broth until tender.
While the asparagus is cooking, sauté the green onions in butter until almost soft. Add parsley and garlic and cook for one minute longer.
Pour the ingredients of the sauté pan into the broth and asparagus. Add salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Add cream. For a thinner soup, stir in milk.
How To Cook Asparagus – on the grill
Some of the best asparagus recipes are cooked on the grill. Grilled asparagus is delicious, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to grilled entrees like beef steaks, chicken, pork chops, fish, shrimp, or scallops. Since you have the grill fired up, anyway, why not use it to cook a great side dish? And if you don't feel like grilling outdoors, use a broiler pan in the oven. Use a drizzle of olive oil or a dab of butter.
1 pound asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Rinse and dry spears and dry on paper towels. Trim tough ends. Place asparagus in a pan and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss stalks to distribute oil and seasonings evenly.
Clean grill grate and spray with cooking spray. Bring grill to medium-high heat. Place spears on grill with tongs. Cook for about 6-10 minutes, turning stalks to cook evenly.
You can alter the flavors of your grilled asparagus recipes by changing up the herbs and spices.