How to Prepare Asparagus Three Ways
Three easy and delicious ways to prepare fresh asparagus.
Typically in peak season during the spring and summer months, fresh asparagus can be a healthy, easy and nutritious side dish for just about any meal. Asparagus is easy to prepare, and is great as an appetizer, side or as a component to a main dish. Depending on the method of preparation, asparagus can be tender or crisp, savory or slightly sweet.
Selecting and Prepping
When buying fresh asparagus at your local market or grocery store, look for narrow or skinny spears that are bright green in color. The asparagus spears will be at their freshest when they are kept upright in trays of water with the cut ends slightly submerged. Once you get your asparagus home, keep it refrigerated.
When you are ready to prepare your asparagus, rinse it well under cold water, in a colander or strainer.
Snapping and Trimming the Ends
When trimming the ends, gently bend one of the spears. The point of where the spear naturally snaps is a good indicator of where the asparagus is tender.
The spear that you have snapped will then be the guide for where to trim the remainder of the asparagus.
Trimming the woody ends off the spears will guarantee especially tender, flavorful asparagus and will help the vegetable cook evenly.
Method 1: Sautéed Asparagus
Sautéing asparagus is a quick and easy cooking method. The spears cook in less than 10 minutes, but still keep a nice, firm texture. When prepared with red onion, it takes on a wonderfully rich flavor and pairs well with grilled or roasted beef, chicken or fish.
To sauté asparagus, chop 1 lb. trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces. If desired, roughly chop half of a medium red onion. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the chopped asparagus and onion to the hot skillet. Cook the asparagus, stirring often for 8-10 minutes. The asparagus will take on a bright green color, and will be slightly tender when pierced with a fork
Method 2: Steamed Asparagus
Steaming asparagus is an especially healthy method of preparation. When paired with lemon, it will take on a fresh, citrusy flavor, and will be tender. Steamed asparagus pairs well with seafood, shellfish, pork and poultry.
To steam, place whole (trimmed) asparagus spears into a saucepan steamer basket. If desired, add a sliced lemon along with the asparagus. Add about one inch of water to the bottom of the saucepan. Cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and heat the saucepan over a medium flame. Bring the water to a boil, and steam for about 3 minutes. Toss the spears with tongs to ensure even cooking, and steam for another 3 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish and top with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve right away.
Careful not to over-steam the asparagus. If steamed for too long, it can become limp and mushy.
Method 3: Oven-Roasted Asparagus
Oven-roasting asparagus is a great way to achieve a rich, caramelized state and a tender texture. When wrapped with thinly cut prosciutto, it takes on a savory, smoky flavor that works well as an appetizer or starter.
To oven roast asparagus, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and move an oven rack to the top slot. Prepare the rinsed whole spears with slices of thinly cut prosciutto, and place on a baking sheet about one inch apart. Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 10-12 minutes. The asparagus will take on a dark green color, and the prosciutto will be golden brown.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve while still hot. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
When oven-roasting the asparagus by itself, add a small amount of olive oil to the baking sheet to prevent it from sticking to the pan.