Asparagus is such a versatile spring vegetable. It can be enjoyed in stir fries, salads, casseroles and grilled or steamed side dishes.
About the only thing I don’t like about asparagus is that it can get tough and go to seed if it it’s not picked soon enough because it grows so quickly.
This year I discovered a new trick for the pieces that had grown too large. The tough outer skin can be peeled with a vegetable peeler and the stem can be cut small, boiled or steamed and then used in a casserole or quiche, where appearance is not as important. The peeled stems can also be used to make soup.
- Ontario Asparagus offers these preparation tips and recipes.
- Cook asparagus by steaming, boiling, microwaving, oven roasting, stir frying or grilling.
- To steam: Lay asparagus in steamer basket and place over boiling water in saucepan. Cover and steam five to seven minutes until asparagus is tender crisp.
- To microwave: Place one pound (500 g) washed asparagus spears in microwave-safe dish. Add two tbsp. (30 mL) water. Cover. Cook on high for four to six minutes, rearranging spears once so bottom spears are moved to top until tender crisp. Keep covered until ready to serve.
- To boil: Place asparagus, uncovered, in a skillet or saucepan and cover with boiling water. Boil for five to seven minutes.
- To oven roast: Arrange one to two lb. (.5-1 kg) of asparagus spears in a single layer in a large shallow baking dish. Drizzle with one to two tbsp. (15-30 mL) oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered, at 500 F (260 C) for eight to 10 minutes or until tender but still slightly firm.
- To Stir fry: In a small bowl, mix one tbsp. (15 mL) cold water, one tsp (5 mL) cornstarch, two tsp. (10 mL) soy sauce and 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) salt and set aside. Heat one tbsp. (15 mL) oil in a skillet or wok.
- Cut asparagus into one inch (2 cm) pieces and cook in hot oil for five to seven minutes, stirring frequently. Push asparagus to the side of skillet and pour soy sauce mixture into the center of the pan.
- Let mixture bubble slightly and then stir vegetables to combine with the sauce. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened.
- To grill: Preheat barbecue or grill on high for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high. Place asparagus in shallow pan, add two tbsp. (30 mL) oil and toss to coat well.
- Grill until tender-crisp, about three minutes per side. Brush with balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To freeze: Prepare the asparagus as you would for cooking and then blanch. Group the stalks in small bundles. Bring large pot of water to boil. Drop the asparagus bundles into boiling water. After the water returns to boil, boil for one minute.
- Quickly lift out the stalks and immerse them into cold water. Leave for two minutes. Drain well, pat dry and package the asparagus in freezer bags. Seal and date package. Freeze immediately. Asparagus may be stored one year at 0 F (-18 C).
- Asparagus supplies a significant amount of nutrients and is low in calories. One spear has less than four calories. It is an excellent source of folic acid, a good source of potassium and a significant source of fibre, thiamin and vitamin B6. It is low in sodium. Asparagus is one of the richest sources of rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. It also contains the antioxidant glutathione.
CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
- Yield: four servings
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus cut in 1 inch (2 cm) pieces 500 g
- 2 c. chicken broth or water 500 mL
- 1 small onion, finely chopped or a small handful of fresh chives, chopped
- 3 tbsp butter 45 mL
- 3 tbsp flour 45 mL
- 2 c. milk 500 mL
- Season to taste
- Use the asparagus bottoms and reserve the asparagus tops for use in another recipe. This recipe is designed to use the mid portions of the asparagus stems.
- Clean the stems of any discoloured pieces. If the stems are unusually thick, use a potato peeler to skin off the tough outside portion of the stem.
- Cut the bottoms off the stalks and discard. Place the stems and onion or chives into the boiling stock and cover and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the stems are tender. Cool and then place the stalks into a blender and puree.
- Melt butter in saucepan; stir in flour and cook until smooth and bubbly. Add milk and cook stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Don’t boil. Add asparagus puree and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot or cold and garnish with reserved tips. If too thick when served cold, thin with additional milk.
- Adapted from www.asparagus.on.ca.