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asparagus basics

Asparagus is one of my family’s favorite vegetables. I generally make Parmesan Roasted Asparagus, but it’s been too hot and humid this past week to even think of turning on the oven, so we’re back to basics. Not only with the recipe but also with the technique.

What technique? Trimming and peeling the stalks, that’s what!

At the market, choose asparagus with tightly closed tips. The stalks should be bright green and firm. If you aren’t cooking the asparagus that day; stand the bundled stalks in a tall glass or vase with about an inch of water, as you would fresh flowers, and refrigerate.

Asparagus comes in all different thicknesses, from pencil-thin to nearly an inch in diameter. The bottom woody inch or two of any asparagus should be discarded. Whether or not you peel the stalks depends upon their thickness. If you were to peel the pencil-thin size, you would have nothing left. I generally peel if the stalks are 1/2-inch in diameter or thicker.

Begin by snapping off the bottom end of each asparagus stalk. It will naturally break at the spot where it is tender. Cutting the ends off with a knife makes it impossible to estimate just how much to take off since tenderness varies from one stalk to the next.

Asparagus is easiest to peel while it’s lying on a flat work surface. Start about 1/2-inch from the tip and peel towards the end of the stalk. Rotate the spear with your other hand as you go. That’s it – easy to do, but very impressive in presentation. Your family will think they mistakenly wandered into an upscale restaurant!

Buttery Lemony Asparagus

2 pounds medium to thick asparagus
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Snap off the woody lower end of each stalk. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off lower half to two thirds of each asparagus stalk.

Place 1/2-inch water in a large skillet and bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and the asparagus. Cook, covered, until just tender-crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain well in a colander, then return to skillet and toss with butter, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Serves 6

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1 comment

1 vegan { 09.23.10 at 8:44 PM }

I love asparagus …peel and all, especially if it’s grilled or sauteed.

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