Tender asparagus shoots don't take much to prepare. After waiting two years for your plants to mature to the point where you harvest them, you want to get them ready for the table with minimal fuss. Following are three quick—but not so dirty—recipes that will reward you for your patience and inspire you to triple your asparagus beds.
First, here are a few preparation tips.
1. Don't peel your asparagus. Much of the flavor is in the stalk's outer layers.
2. Snap, don't cut, your pre-harvested shoots. You'll want to use a sharp knife to harvest your asparagus just above the soil, but for removing the tougher bottoms (only necessary for vegetables purchased from the store or stored for a few days) simply hold the stalk at its base with your right thumb and forefinger, and with your left, move up the stalk about two inches. Then snap! The breaking point is usually where the flavorful, most tender part of the shoot meets the older, woodier parts. Less guessing, and one less utensil to clean.
3. Store unused asparagus wrapped in a moist paper towel, or in a standing asparagus vase in the refrigerator for a few days. But remember, the fresher the better.
Sesame Stir Fry Asparagus
Are you craving an Asian meal? This recipe is a fantastic complement to grilled chicken or marinated beef kabobs and takes only minutes to prepare. Feel free to kick it up a notch with a pinch of chili pepper flakes, or add some earthiness with your favorite finely sliced mushrooms.
Here's what you need:
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces
- 1.5 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 large grated garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons water
- salt and pepper to taste
Forego the fancy wok in favor of a medium skillet or frying pan with matching lid. Heat sesame oil until a sprinkle of water barely splatters, and stir in asparagus, salt and pepper, and grated garlic. Saute two or three minutes until asparagus shows faint tinges of browning, then add water. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Peek into the pan after about a minute to check for color!
Asparagus is done as soon as it turns vivid green, and timing depends on the thickness of the shoots. Don't overcook! Thinner shoots only need a minute or two of steaming to be tender but crisp. Thicker shoots might need a few more.
Prosciutto and asparagus. Really, do we need to say more to sell this flavor combination? Here's what you need:
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 18-20 1/2"-wide strips of prosciutto (or, in a pinch, thinly sliced, lean bacon)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Set oven to broil. Toss or baste asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then wrap with prosciutto, barber pole style, beginning just below the tip of the spears. Line wrapped spears on a large baking sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch between spears. Broil about six inches under top element (your oven may vary) for three minutes until crispy, and turn for another three minutes.
Let spears cool to just above room temperature, arrange on a platter and serve!
Asparagus Parmesan Soup
Perhaps you were wise enough to set aside some of your asparagus harvest to enjoy year round, or you simply crave something warm and hearty on a cool summer night. Vegetable soups are easy to prepare, and asparagus parmesan soup is no exception.
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 pounds chopped asparagus spears
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic
- ½ cup diced white onion
- 1 cup room temperature heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (lemon pepper if you have it)
Saute onion and garlic in butter in a large pot. When onions are translucent, add broth and asparagus, Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
When asparagus is tender (but not mushy), puree in a blender. Return to pot, add cream, parmesan, and pepper. Add salt to taste and simmer while stirring until parmesan is melted.
Garnish with additional parmesan and serve!