If I had to pick a favorite vegetable this time of year, I’d have to say asparagus is the winner. I actually enjoy it year round, but spring it’s at its peak of flavor and the prices are low. While there are many ways to prepare this versatile veggie, the key is to avoid overcooking it. In fact, I find that many folks who say they don’t like asparagus haven’t had it prepared correctly.
My family loves asparagus–including both kids. That’s why I was surprised when, a few years ago, the kids came back from a family dinner I was unable to attend, saying they didn’t like the asparagus that was served. "What are you talking about? You guys love asparagus," I replied. Yes, they told me–how I prepare it, but they said this asparagus was mushy, stringy and made them gag. Aha! Overcooking was the culprit.
It’s important to remember that asparagus cooks quickly and there’s a fine line between done and overdone. The spears should give to a fork or knife, but remain firm to the bite. I’ve found if I am boiling asparagus, I simply put the spears into water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, I wait about 30 seconds to test a spear–obviously the thicker the spear, the longer it takes to cook. Usually the cooking time after the water boils is 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes. Once done, remove them from the heat and drain. I add a little margarine, salt and pepper to taste–it’s that easy!
Another great way to enjoy them is to saute in a little olive oil with some sliced shallots. I tend to use thinner spears for this cooking method to speed up the cooking time. In the spring and summer, one of the kids’ favorite side dishes is grilled asparagus. For this you will have to use thicker spears. I brush them with a little olive oil and place on the grill. Try to keep the flame or heat low so you don’t char the spears. Turn them frequently until done and you’ll find grilling gives them a pleasant smoky flavor.
So take advantage of the season and grab some asparagus the next time you’re at the supermarket. Try my tips or check out our section on asparagus–it includes nutrition, preparation and storage info.