One Food, Four Ways: Asparagus
Steamed, boiled, roasted, or grilled, few veggies are as delicious as asparagus. Plus, it’s high in fiber, vitamin C, and folate. The number of potential asparagus dishes you can whip up is virtually endless. These four are a good start.
1.) GET YOUR SOUP ON…
Chuck a handful of diced, cooked asparagus in a pot with some chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir in some light cream cheese or sour cream, and cook until warm. Or make your own roux in place of the cream: Melt a tbsp of butter in a skillet, and sauté some finely diced garlic or onions over low heat until caramelized. When they’re done, stir 1-2 tbsp of flour into the mixture, and add 1-2 cups of chicken broth plus your herbs of choice. Bring sauce to a boil, add diced, cooked asparagus, and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. For an even creamier texture, process the cooled mixture until smooth; strain.
2.) TOSS SOME SPEARS IN A SALAD…
Cook a bunch of asparagus and let it cool, then cut spears into inch-long chunks. “They’re great in a green salad or mixed with cherry tomatoes and crumbled turkey bacon,” says Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, chef and owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO. “Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.” You may also add the cut-up asparagus to potato or macaroni salads, or heartier chef’s salads.
3.) PAIR WITH EGGS…
Amp up your morning protein by tossing some diced, cooked asparagus into an omelet or mixing it into scrambled eggs. For a more impressive meal, steam some asparagus, arrange the spears on a plate, then top with a poached egg and a bit of olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. If you’re feeding a family or group, try a quick frittata. Sauté some asparagus, onions, and other vegetables in an oven-safe skillet. Pour four to six beaten eggs over the top, add a little cheese, and stick the entire egg-filled pan in the oven to bake until golden brown.
4.) MIX WITH MEAT…
Add diced asparagus to meatloaf, or mix small pieces into homemade meatballs. For a quick casserole, spread cooked asparagus spears in a shallow baking dish, top them with strips of cooked turkey, chicken breast, or ham, then add a sauce. Light canned cream soups are ideal, or make your own by sautéeing diced onions in a nonstick skillet, then mixing with white wine and a dab of sour cream. Coat the meat and asparagus with the sauce, add your favorite seasonings—plus a little grated mild cheese—and bake until bubbly and lightly browned.
COOKING TIPS AND TRICKS
- BUY: The best spears are plump and straight, with a deep green color and relatively few blemishes. Check the stem ends for dryness, splits, or excessive woodiness—these denser spears are often stringy and less fresh. The best thickness depends on what you like: Thin spears are tender and sweet; fatter stems have a meatier texture and stronger flavor.
- STORE: The key is moisture. Wrap a damp paper towel around the cut end, and store them in a plastic bag or container in the coldest part of your fridge. They’ll stay crisp and fresh for a couple days, max. You may also store asparagus standing in water. Cut a bit from the end of each stem and plunk the bunch in a tall container in an inch or so of water.
- PREP: Always start by slicing off the woody ends. (Chefs also peel the stems.) Boil in water for 5–8 minutes. Or wrap in foil and bake with a bit of olive oil at 400° for 15–20 minutes. To nuke, place spears in microwave-safe bowl, add ¼ cup water, cover tightly, and cook for 5–7 minutes. You can also toss spears on the grill, and char until tender, about 5 minutes.