Regardless of the season, asparagus always has a place on my table. Those slender green stalks are amazing blanched, grilled, roasted, sautéed or even raw in just about any dish. Although I like them plain, my favorite way to eat them is tossed in pasta with peas, lemon zest, fresh mint and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
There’s nothing like fresh, tender asparagus. But the relatively short season, late April through early June, means now is a good time to get your fill. Not only is it a great source for folic acid, Vitamins A and C, and antioxidants, but it’s low in calories and salt, and has no cholesterol or fat.
How to Buy and Store
Look for long, firm stalks that stand straight up when you hold them. If stalks are limp or skin is wrinkled, they’re old. The tips should be tightly closed, and the skin should be a deep green with no yellowing. Contrary to popular belief, the size of the asparagus is not an indicator of the stalk’s age. Instead, the larger stalks grow from, the older part of the plant, while the slender stalks grow from new parts.
To store, simply wrap the bottoms with a wet paper towel, put them in a plastic bag and keep them the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The sooner you eat them, the better they’ll taste. Once harvested, the naturally-occurring sugars turn to starch, and the asparagus becomes less flavorful. If you want the asparagus to last longer, use one of the cooking methods below and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.
How To Use
Cut stalks just above the bottom and if they seem woody and use a peeler to remove the outside layer of skin. Here are just a few ideas for serving them at home:
- Raw: the crisp texture of raw asparagus is a great addition to salads. Simply cut stalks on the bias into half-inch pieces.
- Steamed: gently steam for five minutes and add to pasta, risotto, quiche, omelets and even sandwiches.
- Sautéed: cook over medium heat with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Grilled: drizzle with oil, add a pinch of salt, and they’re ready for the grill. Keep asparagus from falling through the barbecue grate by threading them together on kebab skewers.
- Blanched: cook asparagus in boiling salted water until tender and shock them in an ice bath. This stops the cooking and keeps them bright green. Drain well and then add to your favorite egg dish or the poached chicken salad below.
If you have a favorite method of preparing asparagus, please share in the comments below.
Poached Chicken and Asparagus Salad
From the kitchen of Chef Tse
This salad makes a great main course or a perfect dish for Fourth of July. If you want to make this the night before for lunch the next day, replace the tender arugula with romaine lettuce.
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 stem oregano
- 1 stem sage
- 2 stems thyme
- 1 clove garlic, unpeeled
- 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
- 6 spears asparagus
- 4 cups arugula
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 5 radishes, sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons pecans, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock, oregano, sage, thyme, and garlic to a simmer over medium heat. Add chicken and poach for 18 to 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and place on a plate to rest.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch 2-to-3 minutes until bright green and crisp but tender. Remove asparagus from water and plunge into an ice bath two minutes to stop cooking. Drain asparagus and pat dry.
Divide arugula between two plates. Top with asparagus, tomatoes, radishes, red onion and pecans. Slice chicken into ¼ inch slices and lay on top of vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Drizzle salad with vinaigrette and serve immediately.