It is that time of year! That time of year that my local farmers are offering me a sneak peek of amazing things to come. Very soon I will be able to pick local strawberries, but right now many local farms are offering my most beloved asparagus. I LOVE asparagus. Asparagus is a tricky vegetable to cook just right. Through many years of trial and error I think that I have discovered the secret to perfect asparagus. Let me just say that The Food Network will not be calling any time soon to beg me to host my own cooking show, but I consider myself to be a fair to good cook.
The first trick to perfect asparagus is picking the right batch. Some people don't have a preference for the thickness of their asparagus, but I always pick the bunch with the thinest stalks. I like them to be about the thickness of a pencil. I also look for them to be a rich dark green, and very firm.
The next step to perfect asparagus is to cut off woody ends. The very ends of the stalks are very woody and tough, and you want to make sure that you cut those off. I like to do a few cuts, because I want the most asparagus I can get. I keep cutting until I see nice rich green on the bottom.
I like to keep the elastics on to cut, it keeps everything from going everywhere. I cut the top slightly longer because they tend to be thinner an more tender and cook faster. You want every delectable bite to taste the same! That's why you don't want some over cooked, some under cooked and some just too chewy.
The next step to perfect asparagus is to boil your pot of water. I always add about a teaspoon of salt to my water. When the water reaches a nice rolling boil, it's time for those little green beauties to take a bath. It's really important to set a timer. I time mine for 5 minutes. 5 minutes cooks them to a perfect ratio of firm yet tender. Any less than 5 minutes and they are too crisp for my liking, any more and they get all gross and soft and stringy. When the bell dings, throw those little green bad boys into a strainer.
I prefer to just add a generous dollop of butter, but it also tastes amazing with a squeeze of lemon juice and of course a generous dollop of butter and some salt and pepper. I have been know to make a late night snack of asparagus. Christopher and I just sit with a beautiful bowl of steaming hot asparagus and butter. I know that the butter may take away some of the health benefits of the asparagus, but darn it it makes it taste so good!Apart from being extremely delicious, asparagus is also extremely nutricious. 1 cup of asparagus is only 35 calories (that's asparagus without the beautiful golden glow of butter). That 1 cup gives you 1% of your daily recommended fat intake, 12% of your fiber, 29% of your Vitamin A, 73% of your Vitamin C, 3% of your calcium, 6% of your iron and gives you 5 grams of protein.
This week end why don't you head out to your local farmers market and give your self a treat, or better yet go for a drive in the country and buy some asparagus from a local farmer!